Thursday, 27 June 2013

Write up of Death Café New York City with Audrey Pellicano and Nancy Gershman

Death Café New York City Hosted Audrey Pellicano RN MS GRS and Nancy Gershman, prescriptive artist
By Audrey Pellicano

Paula Span’s June 17th NY Times article on Death Cafe brought out the masses in New York City. Well, maybe not the masses but as attendance jumped from the usual 12 to that of 75 it certainly felt like masses to myself and my new co-host Nancy Gershman. For one and a half hours under the din of the crowd we heard people engaged in serious conversation, laughter and heartfelt empathy.

One young woman spoke of her terminally ill father-his having lived a good, albeit short life and how she is ok with his approaching death while her tablemates silently cried tears of empathy. At another table the topic was the "fairness of death.” At a third, a 60- something woman recalled the anger she felt at her mother's (and then therapist’s) suicide; a professor pulled out a historical tome he wrote about the afterlife according to Judaic text; a college student shared notes on ethical issues in capital punishment; a retired policeman spoke about end of life behaviors In the residential care facility where his wife is being cared for. Sprinkled in between were the requisite jokes about death.

Demographics of our Death Café were a bit surprising this month as the male component outnumbered the female. The age range was from 21 to our eldest guest at 88 years of age. Two people traveled 2 hours from Philadelphia to see our Death Cafe firsthand so they can create a similar template in Philadelphia. The outer boroughs of NYC were well represented with folks from Queens and Brooklyn.

Had I not stood to thank everyone for coming and gave the hard working cafe staff time to clean up and go home, the conversations would have continued on to the 2 hour mark. In biding all a good night, I encouraged anyone interested in hosting their own Death Cafe to visit Holding Your Own Death Cafe for guidelines. With all the different neighborhoods here in NYC, I'm hoping there will be some intra-borough sharing and cross-pollination of ideas so we can learn from one another.

At Le Pain Quotidien, Death Café filled the restaurant, completely! Our July meeting is full. We are now receiving RSVP’s for our August 21st meeting.

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