When I was organizing my first Death Cafe, several friends and family members all said that no one would come and I was wasting my time. But I persevered and went to the inaugural meeting prepared for a small group. I had registered at the International Death Cafe, created a Facebook Page and a Meetup for the event and six people had signed up, none of whom I knew. Having run events in my professional life, I knew that not everyone would come. Imagine my surprise when thirteen people came! I was even more surprised at how many young people were part of the group.
What attracted people, both young and old, to come out on such a hot night to sit around and discuss serious issues such as dying, death and grief?
As everyone introduced themselves and told why they came it was apparent that their reasons for coming were very personal. Some had lost a close relative or friend. Others were interested in learning more about how to prepare the legal documents that would ensure that their health care at end-of-life would be what they wanted, not what the medical community wanted to give them. One person was a caregiver and wanted to see what resources might be available to help her. A young man talked about the suicide of his sister and how he was interested in the possibilities of life after life. Another person worked in the bereavement field and was seeking new ideas to help people in her care.
The common thread that joined us together was a desire to learn more about something we would all face: death. Many people shared that no one would talk to them about their losses. Few people they knew even had written end of life plans. Others who were interested in the topic of life after death related how people scorned them for even thinking such a thing was possible. We broke up into three small groups based on these ideas. The rising noise level in the groups was indicative of the increased energy in the room as people shared their ideas, concerns and desires.
By the end of the evening, there was a strong sense of connection among the group. Everyone present talked about how wonderful it was to be with people who were seriously interested in learning about things we will all face one day in an atmosphere of respect and caring. As the meeting came to a close, people were putting the date of the next Death Cafe on calendars and many exchanged contact information so they could continue their conversations.
I returned home excited about the evening and enthusiastic to continue to do the work needed for the next month’s Death Cafe. So what if people I know are not interested in (or afraid) discussing dying, death and grief? I am creating a community of people who want to learn about these topics so that we all can live our finite lives with more joy, love and laughter.
If you would like to find a group of kindred spirits, go online and learn about the international movement called Death Cafe (www.deathcafe.com). And, if you like what you see, put in your zip code to locate a Death Cafe near you. What if there isn’t one? Then think about starting one . You not only will learn many fascinating concepts, you will be helping others explore important ideas that Western culture often refuses to talk about.