As usual, I was listening to NPR on the way home. I heard about the Death Cafe concept started in England in late 2011 by Jon Underwood. The purpose of a Death Cafe is to foster a safe, respectful, confidential, casual forum for discussion of death and how our thoughts and questions about death impact the way we live. By engaging in open and nonjudgemental conversations about death, we can free ourselves of our fears of death and live a fuller life. Kind of like Kate’s Club but for adults.
I googled Death Cafe and, as luck would have it, learned the inaugural Death Cafe – Atlanta was scheduled for Saturday, March 30 in the beautiful, park like setting of historic Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta’s oldest (1850) and most scenic cemetery – it was a date!
Isn’t it always funny to compare your expectations of an event to the actual event? I thought I’d be among people wearing black and fond of Halloween-y embellishments. Totally wrong! The crowd was wonderfully diverse – men/women/gay/straight/black/white/young/old/religious in both the formal/informal sense. Everyone is impacted by death and grief and loss so it is only naturaly that everyone is interested in the Death Cafe.
The conversation began at small four person tables with a mix and mingle about half way through the two hour event to find a new discussion partners. The last 10 minutes were saved for the big group to share topics discussed at the smaller tables. Topics ranged from what to say to a grieving person, how important it is to contact survivors on a special anniversary of the deceased (birthday, wedding anniversary, death day), pet death, sibling estrangement after parent or sibling death, planning memorial services, what happens after death, unresolved issues with the deceased, euthanasia. I was struck by how similar some of the topics were to discussions I’ve had with Kate’s Club kids and thought again how brave KC kids are to tackle loss and grief head on in a society that would much rather pat them on the head and dismiss their need to talk about the death of their loved one.
Death Cafe – Atlanta was a success in my book! The Victorian garden cemetery that is Oakland, is the perfect location for this gathering as it was meant for the living as much as for the deceased. In the late 1800’s Oakland was a popular destination for carriage rides, picnics and tending the lovely gardens around family plots.
Death Cafe – Atlanta plans to convene at Oakland the last Saturday of each month depending on interest. The dates for the next two months are April 27 and May 18 (to account for Memorial Day weekend) from 3pm to 5pm. If you are game to attend, I think you will find it a very enlightening and pleasant way to spend a spring afternoon! You can register via their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/DeathCafeAtlanta?ref=ts&fref=ts