When someone asks you to meet them at a café you assume you’ll have coffee and delicious pastries. What if the menu at the café is new and there is no food on the menu. The menu consists of topics of conversation, questions yet to be answered, and an open honest environment where what scares you can be brought out in the open. That’s the café I attended yesterday, The Death Café.
The Death Café started in 2010 in Europe, by Jon Underwood, and has become a global experience. There are approximately eight hundred Death Cafes across the globe. The Death Café is a gathering of those interested in discussing anything and everything related to their beliefs, opinion, and concerns about death and dying.
We live in a culture that has come to focus on living “the good life”. We haven’t quite figured out how to live “the good life”, so why would we think about anything remotely related to “a good death”. We don’t discuss death on any regular basis and when it enters our sphere we’re disoriented and the emotional and spiritual pain we experience can be excruciating.
My work as a psychotherapist for the past twenty-five years has been in the arena of chronic and life-threatening illness. I’ve had thousands of conversations with people about death and dying. These conversations have served as my own personal question and answer session, always renewing and revising my concerns and beliefs about death and dying.
It’s interesting because on my recent family vacation I had a long conversation with my father about my plans for when I die. It has changed over time, but reaching a place of peace is important. It allows me to make plans reducing stress and anxiety for those in my life who will eventually make those arrangements.
The Death Café format was interesting. Anita Larson, the organizer, had anyone who wanted to write a question on a card that was put in a basket. One-by-one the questions were picked out of the basket and the floor was open for anyone and everyone to respond. People were open, honest, and forthcoming.
Having an environment that allows us to take the mystery out of death and dying is critical to living “the good life”. How can we live “the good life” if we’re twisted with anxiety about death, something we have little if any control over. The saying is true, the only thing we have to do in this lifetime is pay taxes and die, so why give the IRS a leg up on what causes us anxiety?
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