A Visit to the Death Café

Happy All Souls Day…

Earlier this week, I went to a Death Café with my mom.

A growing worldwide phenomenon, Death Cafés aim to take the fear and denial out of death and dying by bringing people together to talk about it in a friendly atmosphere. Held at Boston’s Fenway Community Health Center, the facilitator passed around chocolate cake and prompted about a dozen of us, ranging in age from 20-somethings to septagenarians, to share our views and experiences with death.

One man lost his older brother to an overdose in September. He’s now training to be a hospice volunteer. Another woman moved from Brazil to be with her partner, who recently died from cancer at 26. She’s staying in Boston to write her dissertation on death rituals in different cultures.

We also covered topics like death positivity and good deaths vs. bad deaths (we decided we didn’t like judging death as good or bad, it just is).

Having been with loved ones at the end of their lives, I can say that dying is a powerful passage; an unforgettably intimate moment. It is an honor to be present. When someone’s life spark or soul leaves the room, you can feel the energy shift. Poof! They’re gone…

tombstones, Brookline

Side by side: Tombstones, early 1800s, Brookline, Massachusetts.

I like to describe death “birth in reverse.” No one knows exactly when it’s coming, even when the doctors give you a due date. It ends in sadness and feelings of profound loss rather than joy.

Still, there’s no escaping death, so why deny its existence? Much better to talk about it and have some semblance of control over the process.

I’m leaving instructions. I have a will and a power of attorney in an easy-to-find location in my desk drawer. Thanks to the Death Café, I’m getting my Do Not Resuscitate orders printed out on bright pink paper. Crazy that hospitals still rely on color coded paper, but there you go. I prefer that my friends and fam have a party afterwards. No funeral.

Now that cremations are no longer considered eco-friendly, I may just do a simple burial in a wicker basket or linen shroud and let my body compost three feet under, au naturelle. Turn me into mushrooms, preferably hallucinogenic ones.

My mom and I left the Death Café feeling a tiny bit braver about the whole process. We’re going again next month.

To find a Death Café near you, see https://deathcafe.com/deathcafes/