Friday, 30 November 2012

Death Cafe Ann Arbor, Michigan with Merilynne Rush

The first Death Cafe in Michigan
Next Death Cafe:
December 8th
214 S. Fourth Ave
Ann Arbor, MI. 
RSVP required here or to

Write up by Merilynne Rush:

Wow. Our first ever Michigan Death Cafe was great. Eight people came, despite the fact that it was a football Saturday in downtown Ann Arbor! We went around the room and there was much head nodding and acknowledgement as everyone shared a story. That led to a nicely-paced discussion which ended up focusing on natural death - we all agreed that there are times when allowing natural death to occur is desired but oh, so hard to achieve in our modern world. Interesting.

Hope you'll join us for our next one on December 8, 214 S. Fourth Ave, Ann Arbor, MI. RSVP required here or to

More feedback from a participant on Nov. 17:
  • Overall, it seemed like a very worthwhile sort of gathering.
  • I think it increased my likelihood of being able to focus on the sacred trust involved in attending a beloved's (or anyone's) transition.
  • I felt totally comfortable -- partially because I'm fairly comfortable about such things on my own, but also because you and the other women there made it a very comfortable topic.
  • 3 words that best describe my death cafe experience:
  • freeing, inspiring, comfortable

I would heartily recommend death cafe to anyone expressing any sort of interest or openness.

Here's some resources that were mentioned:

  • Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral, by Kris Radish
  • The Pagan Book of Living and Dying, Practical Rituals, Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations on Crossing Over, by Starhawk, M. Macha NightMare
  • Ira Byock, MD, has written extensively on palliative care and end of life. Somewhere in his writings he lists the five things to be sure to say when someone is dying:
  • 1. Forgive me 2. I forgive you 3. Thank you 4. I love you 5. Good-bye
  • A Safe Journey Home, A Simple Guide to Achieving a Peaceful Death, by Felicity Warner 
  • Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, by Tomie DePaola
  • The 10th Good Thing About Barney, by Judith Viorst


  1. We expect about 10 people tomorrow. We may break into small groups first. I've got some topic ideas...

    Here's some books that Pat L. recommended:
    By Ira Byock, a physician who has worked for years in palliative and hospice care:
    The Best Care Possible: A Physician's Quest to Transform Care Through the End of Life by Ira Byock
    Dying Well
    The Four Things That Matter Most: A Book About Living

    A book for children that explains death in a very gentle way is Lifetimes by Bryan Mollonie and Robert Ingpen.

  2. The second Ann Arbor Death Cafe went even better than the first! We had 14 people. We tried a new format: Small groups first and then large discussion with a "talking stone," which ended up being a silly, kitty piggy bank :) The small group discussions were quite lively. I overheard talk about birth midwifery, end-of-life planning, personal stories about parents dying, and much more. The difficulty for me was that I held back from joining any one group. As people came in late, I placed them in an already formed group. One person who came really late ended up just talking with me for about 10 minutes to not interrupt any other group. I think that part went really well.

    The second half we all came together to talk. I welcomed everyone and explained how the "talking kitty" worked. When you want to say something, you pick up the kitty. When you are done, you put it down again. You only talk with you have the kitty in your hand. I was hoping this would help with the tendency to interrupt or speak too much that some of us have (who, me???). Well, it did help, but the opposite happened. I had to really try to be comfortable with long silences! But it was good. Most people liked it. It was very thoughtful.

    The funniest thing that happened was this: Someone said they wanted to just wander off into the woods and lie down when it was their time to go. I said that this sounded really nice and I've heard that desire expressed by many people. However, that scenario presents many problems in our current society. For one thing, it would be difficult to get a death certificate and your legal affairs would be all tied up in court. I said wouldn't it be nice if there were "walk-in cemeteries." This produced quite a laugh and we went on to discuss this is a joking yet serious way. You can imagine the ensuing conversation: You're walking along and you see someone and say, "Hey, didn't I see you yesterday?" You're not dead yet?", etc.

    Anyway, many participants mentioned being glad that the death cafe was happening and that they planned to come back. We might trade off facilitation, start a book group, or fill out our final wishes documents together. I had run a "home funeral study group" for a year where we did a lot of these things and more. Sounds like this death cafe might take the place of that group.

    Other great ideas from last Saturday:
    1. When someone is dying or dies, hit the "pause" button. Don't do anything too fast. Slow it down, take your time. Be with the process. Slow food, slow medicine, slow death...
    2. It is a gift to your loved ones to plan ahead.
    3. Take time to think about who you want to come to visit when you die. This will help you to stay current in your relationships.
    4. We are encouraged to think, "This is a good day to be alive." We can also ask, "Is this a good day to die?" We might come up with a better "to do" list if we do.

    All for now. See you next month, January 19, same time, same place.


Say your piece.