Yesterday afternoon I attended the second meeting of Death Cafe Bloomington, this time at Rachel’s Cafe. (The first one, two months ago, was held in a a meeting room in the Monroe County Public Library.)
We sat at the table empty in the foreground here, a dozen people crowded around with coffee or tea, many of us strangers to one another — ten older women, one older man, one young woman, and one youngish man — and exchanged personal stories: of how our loved ones died — each one individually, with their own specific, often surprising, wants and needs; of how we behaved during others’ dying processes — looking back with regret, or wondering what more we could have done, or how we could have been more present; of how incredibly various is the grieving process as well, and how difficult it is for both those of us who grieve and those who know us to encounter one another with ease; how the last seventy years in this country have medicalized the way we die so drastically that hardly anyone gets the death they want and deserve; on and on, story after story, some confessional, others bewildered, all grateful for the opportunity to speak and be heard on this topic that is so charged and held in denial, more taboo than any other in our feel good/don’t worry/be happy culture.
As we got started, we found it great fun to ask those who came in Rachel’s door, “Are you here for the Death Cafe?” You can imagine the shock on their usually young faces. But some were totally intrigued, and yes, those who did come in specifically to join us pulled up a chair and sat down in relief. At last! — a place where we can discuss death, and dying, and grieving, with all the fears and fascination that these subjects evoke not only acknowledged, but honored as universal, intimate — usually hidden from view —and utterly, innately mysterious.
The next meet-up will be in two months, at the Brown County Public Library. Check the Death Cafe Bloomington facebook page for details.
The movement now known as “Death Cafe” began in 2011 in England; already there are over 1200 Death Cafe groups world-wide, hundreds of them in the U.S. We humans in the post-industrial world are hungry for this kind of conversation, yearning to fall back in contact with our own bodies, with one another, and with the good Earth from which those bodies emerged and will return.
Indeed Death Cafe is gaining such momentum that there is now an initiative in London to obtain a building to house “a coffee and events venue established specifically to facilitate engagement with death.”