Thursday, 22 November 2012

Death Cafe London with Anja Saunders and Kate Hambleton

Death Cafe
An evening to connect with death in an informal atmosphere
Death cafe offers a supportive group environment
to explore feelings and ideas around
death and dying

Monday the 26th of November
7 pm till 9 pm
In the Wild Food Cafe, 14 Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9DP
the evening is hosted by
Anja Saunders, Interfaith minister and group facilitator and Kate Hambleton, nurse in a London hospice
There is no cost for the evening itself and the Wild Food Cafe will be opening especially for us so we can enjoy their wonderful drinks and snacks. Have a look at to see what a special place this is
for more information see

Kate Hambleton says:

"Recently I have been thinking about funerals.  Not something I had given much thought, but I have been inspired by a visit Anja and I paid to the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium after senior cremation officer Allistair kindly offered to show us around.  Allistair himself is a light-hearted yet serious man who clearly loves his work and, after many years of working in the cemetery he has an in-depth knowledge encompassing the history of the place, funerals and the funeral industry.  Our conversations during the visit have made me better appreciate the value of the funeral ritual in saying goodbye and got me thinking about my own.

"It really struck me that organizing a funeral could be compared to arranging a wedding-type event in approximately 7 days while grieving!  It is not surprising that this can seem overwhelming and that many people opt for the "standard" package offered by the undertakers.

"In communities where cultural or religious traditions are strong custom can dictate the funeral arrangements.  However, in communities where traditions have been lost we have the opportunity to find new and creative ways to say goodbye.  Planning the funeral and/ or carrying out the deceased persons final wishes can be a valuable part of the bereavement process, in helping us make the transition between the person being there and not being there.  We talked about how this can be grand or simple yet also be unique to the person who has died.   We sheared stories of things that have made funerals really personal such as coffins covered with glitter and feathers arriving on horse-drawn carriages accompanied by drummers and of the coffin of a legendary grandmother eco-warrior arriving on a milk float decorated with greenery and ivy.

"When I’m gone I want my body to go back to the earth.  I love the idea I saw emblazoned on a piece of artwork by an artist called Laura that says “From Stardust to Compost and back again” – that sums up the cycle of life for me.  I want to be like the leaves that decompose back into the ground leaving the soil fertile.  The idea of being filled with fomaldehyde and preserved horrifies me.  Then I heard about the Infinity Death Project and discovered that becoming compost in an ecologically friendly way is a scientific possibility!  I feel excited that I could be buried in a suit not dissimilar to a Darth Vader costume and be eaten by decomposing fungi that are specially bred for that purpose.  I hope I’m not the only one and that it will catch on as a new green funeral practice.

"So I have written some ideas of what I want and I hope that there will be some people around to carry them out- it's currently a work in progress and may well change over time.  I can't predict the future and know that when the time comes things may not happen as I expect.  However, having my affairs in order and communicating my wishes to my family and friends seems like a good idea.  Thinking about death in this way makes me acutely aware of my humanity, more empathetic towards my fellow humans and determined to continue making the most of my life.

The Death Cafe is a space for us to think about death in ways that we might not have before and where we can share our thoughts and feelings with a diverse group of like-minded others.  This Monday will see the second Death Cafe at the Wild Food Cafe in Covent Garden, from 7-9pm.  We will drink Chai, talk about death and  Allistair will also be around to answer questions about funerals.  Anja and I hope you will join us."

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