Monday, 22 July 2013

Austin kicks off first Death Café in Texas!

By Jo Jensen
The city slogan for Austin, Texas is “Keep Austin Weird.” Tuesday night a group of twenty people gathered under a canopy of 400-year-old oak trees in the cozy Amala Foundation community center to keep Austin talking about death. After months of planning, the Inaugural Austin Death Café and the first Death Café held in the great state of Texas took place and was a resounding success!

Our attendance mix was mostly women with 5 men (one man asked how we could encourage more men to come), ranged in age from thirtyish to seventyish; and included atheists, Muslims, and Christians. The beautiful setting allowed for people to flow smoothly from the front door where each was welcomed, through the kitchen to select drinks and snacks, then into the initial gathering room. Gorgeous and tasty cupcakes donated by “Skull and Crossbones,” a yummy gluten-free chocolate cake made by one of our attendees, along with coffee, tea and water were enjoyed throughout the evening.

After a brief background on the origins of Death Café and a few “courtesy tips,” the group broke into two more intimate groups where lively discussions ensued and laughter rang out frequently. No formal format of questions was used. People were invited to share their reason for attending, which generated enough conversation to carry the evening. One group used a “talking stick” to honor the person speaking with their undivided attention. The other group respectfully passed a “heart stone” around.

Everyone present seemed quite comfortable with the conversations and the lovely setting. An attendee remarked that the space “just sort of enfolded us.” Topics discussed included suffering, fear of the unknown, the dying process, what (if anything) happens after death, humane death, positive/good death, living in the moment, and personal death experiences of loved ones. One evaluation read, “the time just flew by.” Words used by attendees to describe their experiences were: open, candid, respectful, inclusive, thought-provoking, gratifying, connecting, transparent, relaxed, and inspiring. One comment was “Very worthwhile – really unusual opportunity to discuss things we never talk about – Priceless.” WOW! What a rewarding event!

Austin’s next Death Café is scheduled for August 22nd , is booked solid and has a lengthy waiting list. Our happy challenge is how to accommodate the growing momentum as new people hear about Death Café and past attendees express their interest in “returning for more.” We can be found on Facebook at Death Café Austin, and reached by email at deathcafeaustin @

Thank you to everyone whose open hands, minds and hearts made the first-ever Texas Death Café possible and successful. Austin Death Café founders, facilitators, and hosts are truly grateful!

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