Death Café: A Relaxed Chat About Mortality

By: Jennifer Sexton-Riley

Topics: Senior issues

Death Café is back by popular demand.
On Monday, May 22 at 10 a.m. at the Stony Hill Road senior center, Beacon Hospice director of operations Carla Torres and bereavement coordinator Judy Hunter will facilitate the Death Café, an opportunity to breathe life into conversations about mortality.
What is a Death
Death Café is a global movement designed to bring discussion about death into a relaxed, nonjudgmental setting.
It all started in 2010, when Jon Underwood, a student of Jamyang Buddhist Centre in London, decided to develop a series of projects about death, including the discussion of death. Inspired by the work of Bernard Crettaz on the subject of the rites, custom and place of death in society, Underwood used a similar approach, and Death Café was born.

He describes the project's objective on the Death Café website this way: “To increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives.” Neither a counseling session nor a grief support group, the Death Café is an opportunity for strangers to hold get a directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes.
Torres has facilitated about five Death
Cafés in the past three years.
Death Cafés are just wonderful,” Torres says. “People are hungry to get together and talk about death and dying in an environment in which it is not weird, in which they can be comforted, supported and encouraged. We all, as human beings, have concerns and fears about death. Some of us have had experiences with the subject, some beautiful or transcendent and some scary or terribly sad. Some experiences can even be all of those things at once. We gather in the Death Café with an attitude of openness and wonder, to talk about this great mystery in which we will all participate.”
But isn't death a morbid subject? Not at all, Torres explains.
“In my experience it has never been morbid,” Torres says. “Quite the opposite. We live in a death averse culture, in which we don't often have an opportunity to discuss these subjects in a safe environment. The
Death Café is not a situation in which participants will be instructed or educated. The facilitator is there to simply keep the conversation flowing, whether someone wishes to talk about a dream they might have had about their own death or about a loved one who has died, or perhaps someone would like some input or ideas about planning a funeral or writing a eulogy.

“We come together with only a few bare bones expectations (no pun intended): we will not interrupt someone while they speak, we will encourage and allow speakers to finish their thoughts, we will respect the ideas presented even if we don't agree with them, and we will discuss a variety of topics with a welcoming, free-form approach,” she said.
Torres says that in her experience with the
Death Cafés, participants help and support each other, offering ideas and insights as they come up. A sense of humor is a must, along with curiosity and courage. RSVPs are requested at 508-945-5190, but walk-ins are welcome.
Lunch will be available after the program for $7. On the menu will be chicken piccata with a salad of orzo, tomato and spinach and garlic bread. A brownie sundae will be served for dessert. Call 508-945-5190 to reserve your spot for lunch. Transportation is available.

Death Cafe

At the Chatham Senior Center

Stony Hill Road

Facilitated by Beacon Hospice

RSVP: 508-945-5190