In most settings, serious talk of one’s mortality would be a conversation stopper. At a Death Café small groups of people sit together, eating cake and taking tea or coffee, and engage in casual conversation on the subject of dying and death. They speak of their own experiences, their fears, their wishes. They voice concerns and ask questions. They get comfortable with terms regarding the end of life. They speak of that which is discouraged in most situations—our very certain mortality.
The Death Café movement started in Europe with the express purpose of opening up a meaningful exchange that would “increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their lives.” With no intention to lead participants to any particular conclusion or course of action, the Cafes serve to bring awareness to our common concerns about both living and dying, and to infuse quality and richness to both processes.
In hosting Death Cafes in the Hudson Valley, CFD hopes to build a community of caring and concern, one supportive of a Home for the Dying. CFD Death Cafes are held in restaurants, libraries, community centers, and houses of worship throughout Ulster County. Discussions have included information about green burial and other funeral options, religious traditions and spiritual beliefs about dying, do-not-resuscitate and advanced care directives—any aspect of one’s final scene in the play of life might be brought to the table. No one gets to proselytize or sell their own point of view. Everyone gets a chance to speak out. Life and death are celebrated—and cake is always served.
Sometimes the CFD Death Cafe starts with a short presentation on topics related to end-of-life. Recent topics include:
- Advance Directives and the Legal Aspects of Dying
- Talking about Dying with the Dying
- Choices at the End-of-Life
- Understanding Compassion Fatigue
- The Shifting Climate of Funeral and Burial Options