Saturday, 22 June 2013

Write Up of Death Café St. Joe # 4

Hosted by Megan Mooney, MSW; Harold McClellan, MSW and Jessica Goehring, BSW.

We had 19 people attend our 4th Death Café in St. Joseph, Missouri on June 5th at Café Pony Espresso. We started the evening by asking every person to introduce themselves and tell why they decided to attend our Death Café. In addition, they were asked to give the one word that comes to mind when they hear the word “death”. Some of the words that were given were: hallelujah, transition, peace, grief, graduation, life, eternity, finality, beauty, door, darkness, pain and relief. After we did this exercise together, we broke into small groups and started discussing their biggest fear about death. Some people talked about different diseases, such as cancer that they had witnessed their loved ones die from and discussed their fears of dying from this disease as well. Others talked about how they wanted to die before their spouses because they did not want to be left alone without them. In one example, one couple had this conversation for the first time in one of our small groups. Another group discussed their beliefs about after death and how viewing it as final is scary to them. Others’ fears stem from dying young and not being able to watch their children or family grow up. Attendees talked about how their childhood played a part in how they view death today. One participant shared that he used to have scary dreams about dying when he was a child.

We had two canvases that we turned into Before I Die Walls and throughout the evening each attendee wrote on the wall. Some wrote once and some wrote numerous times on the wall. Here are some of the wishes people wrote that they want to do before they die: to be in control; go back to Israel; see my grandchildren graduate; see my daughter grow up; change the world; a California/Washington road trip; go to Ireland; step foot on all 7 continents; Be truly happy; live; win the lottery; to sky dive; ride my Harley at the tip of the Florida Keys; spend more time with my family; write a book of poems; see Egypt; paint a wonderful painting; be spontaneous and do something fun; write a book about the afterlife; to help as many people as I can and to change someone's life for the better.

At the end we asked the attendees what stood out to them the most during the evening and they said that “life and death go hand in hand”, “the diverse age groups here”, “the group setting; that there is a place that you can come talk to people about something you can’t talk about anywhere else with different people that you don’t know”, “hearing everyone’s different perspectives” and “being able to reflect on what you want to do in your life and in your death.”

Words used to describe the evening were: safe, restorative, informative, creative, fresh, non-threatening, comfortable, interesting, rewarding, friends, sharing, experiences, fun, real, social, reflective, emotional, helpful, revealing, supportive, inspiring, intriguing, educational, open, good and laughter!

One attendee wrote “I enjoyed myself, and it was very healing for my husband (who has a terminal diagnosis). I'm so appreciative of your sensitivity to the need for persons to speak about death and loss in a safe environment.”

Our next Death Café will be on July 17th at Café Pony Espresso from 7pm- 9pm located at 114 S 8th St, St Joseph, MO 64501.

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