Friday, 13 April 2012

Death Cafe in Chester

By Sue Barsky Reid

I had facilitated five Death Cafes in London, including two in the South Bank Centre but this was to be the first Death Cafe outside London, in Chester where I live.

It was to be a pop-up café in my home. After discussions with Jon I began to let my personal networks know that I was planning to do this. My friends and acquaintances offered a variety of responses. Several friends, who had expressed great interest and enthusiasm in theory, felt that they could not attend when I actually gave them a date. I suspect that this is possibly because of fear of the subject matter. I had about 12 expressions of interest but for practical reasons some could not make it.

The day arrived, the cake was baked, and Jon was coming down from London especially to offer support and be the waiter. I felt apprehensive, as all the prospective attendees were my friends. I wondered whether this would change the dynamic, and prevent the discussion from being as rich and varied as it had been in the previous cafes.

The appointed time of 2pm came and no one had arrived. Ten minutes passed and still it was empty. I received a couple of texts to inform me that people were on their way or were stuck in traffic. Eventually the bell rang and a friend with someone I did not know arrived, then another friend came so we decided to start.

We began in my usual way, of asking why people had decided to come. Even with the small number the discussion began immediately and was as varied and interesting as always. Our two remaining participants arrived and we continued. 

My memory of the content is always hazy after I have led a group, but I recollect that we laughed and were also moved to tears as people spoke about their experiences and feelings around funerals and loss. Three of the participants are Jewish and one is a Buddhist so there was lots of interest about the different cultures and beliefs around Death and rituals.

As usual we used the last half hour to think about our lives and what we had achieved and were proud of, what held us back and how we would overcome those barriers.

I need not have worried at the beginning, when interested people get together to speak about Death something magical seems to happen and the results although not predictable are always interesting and rich. 

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