History of Threshold Work


Linda Bergh, Marianne Deitzel and Kim Pilgrim are a part of the Twin Cities Threshold Group and have been consciously involved with having threshold experiences held in a more wholesome way since the crossing of Linda’s husband in 1995. During this passing, the community gathered for a 3-day vigil and self-led memorial service. One and a half years later, in late1996, Linda and Marianne’s 17 and 18 year old daughters Kirsten Bergh and Nina Dierzel died in a car accident. Marianne, along with others in the community, began a weekly reading time to those who had crossed the threshold. Later a group formally met to see how they could serve the community. They became known as the Twin Cities Threshold group. In addition to researching home death, and having a casket made, the group has organized several events for “ The Day of the Dead”, and hosted Nancy Poer’s workshop on Death and Dying. The deaths of Marianne’s mother and Linda’s second husband Jack Heckelman gave these women and the community around them the opportunity to also work with the process of dying in a more conscious way. Through Jack’s opening up his dying process to the community, many more people experienced the possibility of “Living into Dying” as Nancy Poer talks about in her book. Friends helped Jack complete a video of his Ethical Will before his death. The wider community gathered for the three day vigil, closer community for closing of casket and the cremation. In 2006 requests began for classes in this work. Marianne Dietzel, Linda Bergh, and Kim Pilgrim have taught three classes in Minnesota and Wisconsin, on demand, and will be offering more. They are called upon for individual consultation, and in Marianne’s case, for lyre playing A community friend Barbara MacAfee is organizing a threshhold choir .

Meanwhile other likeminded members of the community are working in their areas of interest.


Paul Bergh was the first PERSON (elder) in our WALDORF/ANTHROPOSOPHIC community to cross the threshold in the summer of 1995. HIS WIFE Linda Bergh gathered friends around her to help usher her husband across and help figure out how to care for his body/soul/spirit in a personalized way in the days following his death. Our community then experienced for the first time a three-day vigil in a home setting. This event was the first in a cascade of events that led to an extraordinary intertwining of personal and community destinies around the threshold of death.

In little more than a year later, Linda’s daughter Kirsten and my daughter Nina ventured off to Harlemville, NY to finish their high school years at the Hawthorne Valley School. When Linda went to visit them at Thanksgiving, she was in a car accident with Nina and Kirsten which killed the girls immediately whilst Linda survived with severe traumatic injuries. The shocking loss of the girls was mourned in a home vigil carried by THE loving HARLEMVILLE community, followed by a funeral. Memorial services were held for each of the girls in Minnesota, Kirsten’s not until Linda was recuperated enough to participate.

In the early months of 1997, several close friends joined me and my husband Dennis, and eventually Linda, in starting a Tuesday morning “Reading for the Dead” group. This proved to be an essential element in the healing process for the bereaved parents. It created a space away from the normal routines of life where we could connect with and offer spiritual nourishment to our beloved across the threshold. It also heightened community awareness of the continued presence of the girls in the life of the three Waldorf lower schools and the fledgling high school initiative in the Twin Cities.

As the weeks and months rolled by, others were welcomed into this circle in times of need to find this sacred connection to the dead.

Soon months turned into years for this Tuesday morning reading group. In a wish to share the fruits of our work, which felt so solid and enlivening for us, with the community, the original core group of five created and invited the community to a Festival for the Dead on All Soul’s Day in 1999. This began a regular rhythm of commemorating this day each year, seeking ways to honor and remember loved ones across the threshold that could be meaningful to people from all traditions.

Out of the reading group also came the intention to bring more spiritual consciousness and practical information around the threshold of death to all in the community. Nancy Poer, a national pioneer in home death care, was brought to the Twin Cities BY THE NOVALIS INSTITUTE for a week-end workshop in the winter of 2001. From her wealth of knowledge both philosophically FROM(of) Steiner’s indications and practically from 20 years of “mid-wifing” many home deaths and vigils, she brought new ways to look at our relationship to those who have died, and ways to be more present at these difficult, yet so deeply meaningful moments.

Around the same time, after five years of meeting once a week, the “Reading for the Dead” group came to an end as individuals moved on and were no longer able to meet in the mornings. However, a new initiative took shape. The “Twin Cities Threshold Group” began to study end-of-life issues and practices from a variety of spiritual perspectives, and to examine individual questions and thoughts about choices in end-of-life care. We gathered legal information to fully grasp the potential for empowering ourselves to care for our own after death and hold home vigils.

This group met regularly from 2001-2003, and intermittently after that. Soon we found ourselves facing a life-situation which would again gather our community together at the threshold.

In 2002, our community joyfully celebrated the wedding of Linda Bergh to Jack Heckleman. TWO(Three) short years later Jack, at age 82, was diagnosed with lung cancer. His journey in facing his disease and impending death became a community journey of loving accompaniment as he and Linda so extraordinarily opened their lives to the community. We learned how to celebrate a life even as it was ending, how to provide physical, soul and spiritual support to both the dying person and the caregiver, and how to be with and say good-bye to an individual approaching and crossing the threshold.

Amazingly enough, Jack Heckleman was the brother of Nancy Poer, who again found herself amongst us, lending her experience and expertise as we had a real opportunity to care for the body of a beloved elder as his soul/spirit journeyed onward. The three-day vigil for Jack became a true community event, pulling many individuals and families into the experience of the sacred space surrounding him and his beloved Linda in their home.

At the memorial service for Jack in April 2005, all were able to view a video of Jack in the weeks before he died delivering his ethical will, the legacy he wished to leave his survivors. THISVIDEO, INCLUDING A TV SPOT MADE ON JACK’S CONSCIOUS DYING, IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR ANYONE TO RECEIVE .

When the Twin Cities Threshold Group met again in the Fall of 2005, it was clear that many individuals held a deep desire and intention to be prepared to provide support in the event of future crossings. We gathered information on the different ways people were willing to be called upon. Interest in a Threshold Choir was an underlying current. Collaboration with other groups interested in the same issues became a new possibility. And, the Threshold Group now had a new resource to offer: a beautiful coffin made by the woodworkers at Community Homestead. This is available to any family who might wish to have a home vigil for a loved one, but does not need a coffin for burial (i.e., the corpse would be transferred to a simple box for cremation).

After that meeting, our group hasn’t met again, yet we know that this network exists which could be called into action at any moment. As situations have arisen, different ones of us have been available to provide the unique needs that present themselves. Our coffin has not yet been utilized, but lies ready, a symbol for our group’s continued presence and availability.

There is yet another thread that weaves on. Three of us, Linda Bergh, myself, and Kim Pilgrim, who were all intimately involved since that first crossing, have felt it our special task to bring these possibilities for approaching death and after-death care to others. In the Spring of 2006 we were invited by a threshold group forming in Viroqua, Wisconsin to share stories and experiences to help them know what they may need to prepare for. This group has since published its own Final Wishes Booklet.

Another invitation came from a retreat center to offer a workshop. The individuals who attended – a hospice nurse, hospice volunteers, and others from surrounding rural south-eastern Minnesota – were very open and receptive to these ideas. Some were thrilled to have solid information to be able to offer as possibilities to people they work with, or to embrace for themselves and their loved ones. SEVERAL FELT THAT THIS INFORMATION FOR AFTER DEATH CARE IS A PIECE MISSING FROM HOSPICE.

This experience has given us the confidence to take a next step: to offer classes/workshops in the Twin Cities BOTH FOR INTERESTED INDIVIDUALS AND for professionals involved with hospice or other organizations working with people facing death.

When we actually offer our stories and all that we have learned, we find that we speak to something living in others that they welcome being brought into focus.

We invite anyone who might like support in creating a vessel for threshold work in their own communities to call or email us at the numbers below, or to visit the website lindabergh.org. for links to resources.

Linda Bergh 612-927-0894 linda@lindabergh.org
Marianne Dietzel 651-633-0432 _____________ http://www.chinatownfrance.com/modules.php_mop=modload_name=Forums_file=editpost_post_id=1941_topic=156_forum=3.html