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Death Café

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 Death Café is an opportunity for up to a dozen participants to confidentially discuss thoughts and feelings about end-of-life and afterlife in a safe, relaxed, nonjudgmental, and non-sectarian environment. Over cake, cookies, and tea Death Café is  facilitated by Community Programmer, Neil Fernyhough, who has experience in these issues as an Anglican minister and former social worker. Death Café is part of a worldwide movement seeking to normalize conversations about death in an effort to confront fears and anxieties and to encourage people to make the most of our lives. Death Café is offered at no cost but participation is limited to twelve, so when dates are announced, we do ask folks to register by calling our front desk at 604-535-0015. 


On January 26th I attended my first Death Cafe at Camp Alexandra in Crescent Beach.  The evening discussion was facilitated by Neil Fernyhough, who runs the community programs.  He spoke of the concept of Death Cafes and asked us to speak from our hearts. There were eight people attending, a collection of nurses, social workers, a lawyer and others.   Sharing tea and treats we had a spirited and powerful discussion often punctuated by laughter and touching moments of sharing.  We covered such topics as fear of death, euthanasia, organ donations, type of burial we would prefer and what we would want for our celebration of life or funeral.

The concept of Death Cafes began in Switzerland in 2004.   Bernard Crettaz, a sociologist felt there was a need for people to get together in a relaxed and comfortable setting and talk in an open and authentic way about death.   Death seems to be the last taboo subject, and he believed it was time for it to “come out of the closet”.  Jon Underwood, a British web maker liked the concept and began the first Death Cafe in Britain in 2010.  Death Cafes have since spread to many countries in the world and are gaining in popularity.  Jon Underwood says if we can get together to talk about death openly and honestly we can” say things in front of strangers which are really profound and beautiful”. 

The Death Cafe website states that the goal is “to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives”.   For me, it was an inspiring evening.  We are all going to die.  It is part of life, another transition, another journey.   I described being with my mother when she died and that I felt I was giving her death as she had given me life, that I was a midwife for her death process.  At that point one of the women in the group said she had read about other cultures having death coaches and asked “would you be my death coach?”  I felt quite honoured by her request.

 Hope to see you there for a lively and powerful discussion.

Dorothy Beavington

For information about the movement  An interesting article on the topic is available in the New York Times.

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