The first Death Café west of the Mississippi was a resounding success. Held at a restaurant in Albuquerque on Sunday, people came together in a relaxed, confidential and safe setting to discuss mortality and death while eating delicious cake and cookies.
“As The Doyenne of Death, I’m all about helping to start this conversation, and the Death Café is a wonderful way to take this topic out of the dark,” said Gail Rubin, coordinator of the event. “Death, if it’s discussed at all, is usually spoken about in furtive, low whispers. We’re all headed down this path eventually, let’s talk about our concerns, our hopes and fears.”
Fifteen people joined Gail in a wide ranging discussion of mortality issues such as living life to the fullest, bucket lists, aging in place and end-of-life decision-making. Questions pondered included “Would you want to die in your sleep?” “Does the idea of death make us want to live more fully?” and “Is it right for someone to dictate not having a funeral or memorial service?”
In the program evaluation forms, some of the terms used to describe the event were “thought-provoking” “intriguing” “stimulating” “worthwhile” “comfortable” “informative” “practical” “interesting” “safe” “educational” and “fun.”
The Death Café concept started in England, where “stiff-upper-lip” Brits have an especially hard time talking about death. Founder Jon Underwood modeled it on the café mortel created by Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz. Underwood held his first Death Café event September 2011 in London. Hospice volunteer and thanatologist Lizzy Miles coordinated the first U.S. Death Café held in Columbus, Ohio July 2012.
Gail Rubin is author of the award-winning book A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die. She was recently featured in The Albuquerque Journal for her 30 Funerals in 30 Days Challenge, where she attended and blogged about memorial services of people picked out of the obituaries.
Additional Death Café events will be scheduled in the future. For more information visit www.AGoodGoodbye.com and the ABQ Death Café event page.