Talking about death makes us better. That’s why I love Death Café.
On Wednesday evening, August 13th, I gathered in the Fox Room of the Rutland Free Library with 33 other folks for Rutland’s Second Death Café. There was no speaker – only two sponsors – Nancy Scarcello and myself. Divided between four tables – we gathered to talk about death. No binding truths were pronounced, but cake was served. According to the Death café website – Death Café’s only objective is ‘to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives’. And this is but one way that the Death Cafe experience makes us better.
When we talk about death we are able to listen and learn from the experience of others. Everyone has definitely got a story to tell and Death Cafe has a huge element of storytelling. We can confess that we have never seen someone actively dying, then listen as someone shares a firsthand experience. We can share our own history as a cancer survivor and perhaps change someone else’s mind about conventional medicine. We can hear someone talk about the trials of an aging or diseased body and wonder what we might do if (and when) we are faced with such fear and pain. We are sometimes amazed to hear the conversational tone that is taken when seemingly secret sufferings are discussed. We learn that grief has respite too. We hear anger in the tone of those who feel an entirely other way when telling their story of loss. We learn that feelings about death are so varied that our own thoughts fit comfortably alongside the others. Death Cafe provides a space for us to listen and learn about death and dying.
Death Café is a place where sorrows can be shared. And I have heard that “a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved.” While laughter can be heard at a typical Death Café there is a reason that each table has a box of tissues as a centerpiece. We can feel free to tell sad stories here; sad stories that are uncomfortably unwelcome to those outside of Death Café. They are somehow more easily revealed to strangers who bear our sadness without the hurt our own loved ones would surely feel if we revealed these same thoughts to them. It is even possible that we will discover an ease in the telling that will make it easier to repeat our death stories to loved ones.
Death Café is an opportunity for kindness. Many of us have heard it said that we should be kind to everyone we meet because we can’t know what burdens others may carry when we encounter them in our world. Death Café presents us with an opportunity to know a bit about the struggles of those who choose to share them. And it is clear that those who did so, felt supported by folks around them. Participants have reported to me that they were encouraged and comforted and felt a need to hear more from fellow humans at Death Café’s in the future.
Rutland’s Death Café #3 is happening on Wednesday, September 24th at 6 pm in The Fox Room of Rutland Free Library. For more information call 802 353 6991.