Facing the death of another is to face your own mortality. But what if you came to terms with the fact that you’re going to die? It could really change the way you live. Think about it. How different would today be if you were “okay” with death?
Through conversation, we can get to a certain comfort level with topics that make us squirm or create anxiety. Death – not exactly a topic for casual conversation. Or is it? Let me introduce you to Death Café. A groundbreaking concept when it started in 2011 in London, a Death Café is a pop-up event where people gather to talk about death and have tea and delicious food. No agenda. No conclusion. Just tea, cake and conversation about death – perceptions, attitudes, fears or curiosities.
I stumbled across DeathCafe.com and was intrigued. Being from northwest Ohio, when I learned about the Columbus, Ohio, Death Café, I made plans to attend the next event. Upon arriving, there was tea. There was cake. And there were many people ranging in age in small groups gathered around three or four tables discussing death. Two hours passed quickly as we rotated table discussions and created new small groups of discussion. At first, the conversations felt tentative; however, they quickly evolved into in-depth and engaging dialogue. I was struck by how much people will share.
When leaving for the night, I sparked up conversation with a few remaining people – the customer survey portion of the event. What appealed to you the most? How many events have you attended? To my surprise, I was chatting with the founder of the Columbus Death Café, Lizzy Miles. Her work as a full-time hospice social worker inspired her interest in Death Café. She found it commonplace for families to be completely unprepared for the thought of their family member dying. Facing a loved one’s decline was overwhelming to them. They never had conversations about end of life. As she mentioned to me, “The more I know, the more I know I don’t know.”
What motivates people to attend a Death Café? Perhaps the need to learn, talk and share about death. Maybe the culture and time are right for more conversations in the public space about end of life. Long before crisis occurs, think about what’s important to you at the end of your life. Seriously, think about this question for yourself: “When I die….” And now go one step further and share your thoughts with your family and friends about what’s important to you when you die.
Talking about death won’t kill you. It’s healthy. It can be healing. It can bring people closer together. Talking about anxiety-provoking topics leads to comfort. And if we’re OK with our own death, knowing that we’ve considered and shared what’s important to us, then how different would today be? It could really change the way you live.