Thursday, 27 September 2012

Columbus Ohio Death Cafe #3: Life and Death Questions



By Lizzy Miles

I am continually amazed at the diversity of conversations that arise from the Death Café events.  Each event is unique and the variety stems from the topics brought up by the participants.  While Maria and I call ourselves facilitators, we are more like hosts that start the conversation.  Where the conversation goes is entirely up to the attendees.

Among the 17 attendees, we had multiple groups of people who came to the event together.  We had three siblings, a mother and daughter, and multiple sets of friends.  People are sometimes surprised when I ask them to sit apart from their friend or family.  The reason I do this is because the greatest enjoyment of the event comes from hearing multiple perspectives and sharing one’s own story.

We started out the evening in small groups.  The intimacy of the small group structure allows for everyone to have a chance to speak, and it is less intimidating.  As I moved from group to group, I was touched by the openness and empathy expressed in such a short period of time.

As with every Death Café, last night we talked about a wide range of topics.  There were a lot of questions pondered.  Is it normal to think about dying every day?  Which is worse to experience – the sudden death of a loved one, or watching them suffer for a prolonged period of time?  Is a viewing necessary?  What if I don’t agree with my family on how a funeral should be put together?  How do you define quality of life?  Why can’t I chose when I will die?  What happens after we die?

There is something special about the Death Café.  It creates that space to have the conversations that we can’t seem to have anywhere else.  My interest in the Death Café was sparked from my experience as a hospice worker.  I found that wherever I went, once I mentioned hospice, strangers would immediately share their stories with me.  I realized that these people needed to share their stories and there really was nowhere safe for them to do so.  There is now.

The beauty of the Death Café is that it brings people together who want to talk about the “taboo” topic of death (and all that it entails).  Many of the attendees reported in their surveys that in addition to telling their own story, they found comfort in hearing the stories of others.  The participants who have come to the Death Café events have a wide variety of backgrounds.  The diversity of experiences, beliefs and opinions contributes to the in-depth discussions that we have.

Many of the participants intend to return for more Death Café discussions.

There will be future Death Cafés in Columbus.  Please check back here for updates.

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