A little more than a year ago, a flier in the local library caught my attention. What made me pick it up was the header: DEATH CAFE. Beneath the title was an orange-and-black blurry picture of a woman and child on a path lined by shadowy trees. Upon looking closer, I read the words:
Come and talk about the kind of death YOU would like, and how you might go about achieving it – Death, like eating, is an essential part of life. If we talked about it more, we might fear it less.
I took it home, but was too shy to ask my parents to take me. I also failed to read the address on the piece of paper; part of the reason I didn’t want to go was because I thought the meeting would be held in an actual cafe far away from where I lived, but if I’d read the address I would have seen that it was in the library. I kept the leaflet and forgot about it
Guess what? Over a year later, the leaflet turned up, thanks to the house being tidied. I showed my parents and we speculated about it for a while. I then googled the URL on the flier, “www.deathcafe.com.” I found a whole website about it, detailing the history of the idea and who founded it, what it was, how it worked, and how and where to attend! There was even a section explaining how you could host your own. It turned out that The Death Cafe was not a cafe, but the name of a sort of organisation that arranges get-togethers where people talk about dying – while at the same time, drinking tea and eating cake. The point of a Death Cafe is to create a space where people can approach the topic without being morbid, or having others tell them not to talk about such things. It really isn’t somewhere you go for grief-counselling, nor do you have to be terminally ill to attend. According to the website, the point of eating cake at the meetings is to normalise the topic, and to take out some of the taboo associated with it; you are talking about death – something that allegedly brings it closer – but at the same time, doing something life sustaining: eating. That’s the symbolic interpretation!
I could not miss out on such an opportunity, but at the same time I was really shy about the idea of having a discussion with strangers. The message on the flier also looked really funny to me. Come and talk about the kind of death YOU would like, and how you might go about achieving it.
RANDOM ATTENDEE 1: Well, I personally quite enjoy the idea of dying in a car crash, don’t you? I think I can achieve this by… maybe, not putting my seat belt on. And yeah, I’ll see how it goes from there… Does anyone else have similar ideas?
RANDOM ATTENDEE 2: I totally get what you mean! I’ve always had this fantasy of, like, dying in some sort of automobile accident. Ideally my head would smash against the front window, giving me concussion. Then, the car would, like, flip over and explode and go up in these really cool flames. Like whoooosh! I would achieve this by… first sabotaging the airbag – although I would have to look up how to do that – and then I’d get in the car. I’d have to make sure not to put my seatbelt on. Then I would drive at 150 miles per hour towards any van in the vicinity… and SMASH. Kaput.
RANDOM ATTENDEE 1: I know, right? And I’d time my death so that it was on Halloween or Christmas, just for fun… or something like that.
RANDOM ATTENDEE 3: I also like the idea of specially timing my death. I’m quite interested in joining the 27 club. But I’d have to get quite famous in the meantime to become a proper member, you know what I mean? And I’d write, like, a really epic suicide note… in my own blood.
And then the next part of the message – Death, like eating, is an essential part of life. If we talked about it more, we might fear it less.
So if we talk about eating as well, we’ll fear it less? Personally, I’ve never been scared of eating. “Death, like eating is an essential part of life” – LOL.
Well, to reassure you, a Death Cafe is NOTHING like that. Soon after finding the leaflet, my mum discovered that there would be a meeting that day. Unfortunately, we waited till the last minute to find out the details. I ended up rushing to the room where my dad was working, asking him to take me that instant if we wanted to go, as we had no time to spare. We put our jackets on and hurried out of the house into the car. I was totally nervous. I had no idea what I was going to say. I thought about death a lot, but I had never finalised an idea of how exactly I wanted to die. For example, I used to want to die in my sleep, but now I hate the idea of that because it sounds sneaky. I want to be present at my death, I don’t want to just not wake up one day.
We turned up at the library about five minutes late. There were some chairs and sofas arranged in a square in the center of the room, with a coffee table in the middle. The lady organising it was really good, she managed to fill up any unnecessary gaps in the conversation with ease, avoiding any awkwardness. Her voice seemed confident and she seemed in control. She put me at ease right away, offering me a cup of tea (actually she had to make me three cups of tea because she accidentally put milk in the first two and I don’t drink milk LOL. So someone else had to drink them.) There were little cakes and biscuits on the table too, but I’m vegan so I couldn’t have them.
The discussion was way more practical than I had imagined. I’d thought that we’d be talking more philosophically, but the discussion was more about burials and their wills. I learned about an interesting concept called an “Advanced Decision,” which is a bit like a will, but it’s a document you sign that says, if it comes to it, whether you would like to be taken off life support, and other such decisions that you won’t be able to make if you have a condition that develops too far. You need a doctor to sign it to say that you were in a sound state of mind when you filled in your advanced decision, and it’s also good to review it every few years.
If you wanna find out more about Death Cafe – or go to one -, the link is in this post if you scroll up. But if you’re too lazy to scroll up, here it is again: www.deathcafe.com.
In the mean time, tell me: What kind of death would YOU like, ideally? And how would you achieve it? I’m really keen to hear your answers, so comment below please! Can’t wait to read them.
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