About Us

Mary Mary Matthiesen​ Profile photo for Conversations for Life

Mary Matthiesen

Healthcare educator, compassionate community facilitator, and social entrepreneur

My mother’s death was the birth of Conversations for Life™. It wasn’t just a form or a system that ensured she got what mattered to her. It wasn’t just a hospital or doctor who ensured we had peace of mind. It was the conversations and connections between our family, staff and community services who were all on the same page when it mattered. Through exhaustion and grief, in the end, we knew we’d done all we could to honour her wishes. And it all started with a conversation.

No matter your title or training, we are all in this life and death thing together. Nothing I’d done or witnessed put it all together, or spoke to me – as a healthy baby boomer woman, daughter of aging parents – to help them have a good death. I was now on a personal mission to combine my knowledge and experience from working for decades with healthcare staff, as a leader of community agencies and through my personal journey, to attempt to make a difference in small or large ways.

I’ve led regional organisations and programmes in the US around sudden death and organ donation, women and heart disease, sacred dying and suicide and mental illness. I have a degree in Psychobiology and certificates from Stanford University in executive leadership, Coaches Training Institute in life coaching, and the Cancer Monologue Project and the Asset-Based Community Development Institute as a facilitator.

My path led me to meet the formidable Nicola Rudge, and our combined passion, experience and home countries, led to what has become Conversations for Life. (You can read the full story in Dying to Make a Difference.)

I wasn’t there when my mother died, yet she got what she wanted, in large part because of these conversations. What started as altruistic, is now self-defence. As a baby boomer woman, I believe that we each hold stories about the death of loved ones that clarify what we’d want, or never choose. Yet we need to talk about them in a way that can influence our lives AND our future care. My passion is to help us to do just that, by creating and delivering transformational workshops that engage boomer women, healthcare staff and community leaders to join me in transforming fears or denial of death into co-creating what matters most as we age through our last days of living: communication, connections, and, care. Conversations for Life™ is the first step.

Two Books - Dying to Make a Difference by Mary Matthiesen - stacked on top of each other

Dying to Make a Difference is a story for our generation. A story about heeding life’s inner call after the death of a loved one, and the legacy that’s possible when we do: living AND dying well.

Nicola Rudge Profile photo for Conversations for Life

Nicola Rudge

Designer, Coach, Facilitator and Social Entrepreneur

As a creative, my unstoppable mind is always searching for what’s possible. As someone who lives with multiple chronic conditions, maintaining a good life balance is an ongoing process. My passion and progressive career as a a multi-disciplinary designer, filmmaker and coach continue to help me do both, while meeting the challenges along the way.

I’ve worked as a production designer in film and television, designed award winning boutique hotels and visitor attractions. I know how to create customer-centred experiences, yet I knew I wanted to support more significant and sustainable change for people’s lives.

Early in my career, and often frustrated by services and ongoing care myself, I became a patient advocate representative and consultant, supporting the development of services from the patient perspective,. I helped develop a new Diabetes centre in Manchester using stories from patients and community feedback to create a new innovative approach to services, based on patient experiences. This first full-service diabetes centre was the result-both more efficient and cost effective- It not only was a benefit to the patients, but even moreso to the NHS: a win-win.

inspiring patients and communities to innovate for themselves, to co-create change

Using design and coaching process to create emergent solutions to challenges has become a passion. Working with individuals, groups and organisations to support them to co-create solutions is a holistic, grounded, effective and satisfying way to empower all involved.

I hold a first-class honors degree from Manchester University in design for the communication media. I am a current member of Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union and a certified master NLP practitioner. I’m a trained facilitator with the Autobiographical Monologue and the Expert Patient Programme. My toolkit contains coaching combined with design processes to influence, redesign or improve systems and services from a patient or end user perspectives.

In 2008 I met Mary and learned of her passion. Her vision to reconnect staff and communities to a more human-centred approach to end of life care inspired me. We partnered and co-created Conversations for Life™ . As creative business director we collaborated, created and filmed, “Breaking the silence” and “Through our eyes”, two films used as catalysts for change- to break the taboo of talking about death and dying in order to improve end of life care. The first as part of the Conversations for Life™ integrated public health campaign in Cumbria, the second, as part of a Northwest (UK) regional initiative to open cross-sector dialogue and improve end of life care for minority (BAME) communities. Both resulted in programmes for change.

All too often we feel disempowered by circumstances around us. We need to find more ways in which we can make a difference using our own gifts, expertise and knowledge. Starting conversations can open a world of new possibilities to create a better future. Good questions, being curious and being open to innovate and change for me is the new alchemy.

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