Ever given up a sunny Sunday afternoon to sit around and talk death with a bunch of strangers? I did last week for Birmingham’s first Death Cafe, which took place as part of The Electric’s Shock and Gore festival.
The Death Cafe is a voluntary group, developed in London by Jon Underwood and Sue Barsky Reid. There objective is simple: ‘to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives’. Birmingham’s first meeting was held in The Victoria Pub and organised by Carrie Weekes, a soon-to-be undertaker, and Sharon Hudson, a palliative care nurse specialist – with sweet treats from Conjurer’s Kitchen, and a room rather surreally decorated for a themed Dr Sketchy’s later.
With a three-course list of questions, we sat in groups of eight and discussed attitudes to death, end of life care and what we’d like to see at our own funerals. It was interesting to see the diversity of ages and experiences – from those working with people at the end stages of their lives, to people caring for elderly relatives and those who were just curious. It also fascinating to see people’s experiences of talking about death in the everyday; from parents whose children didn’t want to discuss ‘what happens if…’ to those who’d written wills and had paperwork sorted for every eventuality. Topics of assisted suicide, organ donation and the debate about knowing how long you have left were all covered too.
It sounds strange, but I left the Death Cafe feeling oddly energised. It gave me the opportunity to think about my own experiences with death, how better to live and questions to ask of loved ones. For a few hours talking about death, I felt oddly more appreciative of my family and my life.
Would I go back? You know, I think I would.
Check out http://deathcafe.com/deathcafes/ for information on the next Birmingham Death Cafe.