Next Tuesday 14 May, the first official Death Café in the North East of England will be held at the Park View Inn on Saltwell Road in Gateshead at 6.30pm.
Death Café began in September 2011 when Jon Underwood held an event in his basement. They have now been held in Britain, the USA, Canada, Australia, Italy. The purpose is to provide a safe, convivial setting where people can talk about death. The philosophy is that by talking about death you can help to make the most of life on earth. You can find out more about Death Café at their website here:
I was introduced to the idea by Linda Blakelock who set up a new funeral service in my parish in Gateshead (http://divinedepartures.co.uk/). I took up Linda’s invitation to visit the new shop and then took part in the official opening ceremony. Then I kept bumping into her at community events and meetings. She doesn’t just do funerals; she is keen to engage with the community. It was Linda who said we should do Death Café.
I got on board because I want people to have a good death and the way to have a good death is to have a good life. Accepting our own mortality is part of that, and being open about what is going to happen. I once worked with a woman who knew she was dying and did accept that. I visited her many times. I tried to get her to talk about her dying and death, but she didn’t want to go there. It was her choice, but I felt she was missing out. I am always sad when people just don’t want to talk about it.
So I welcome the opportunity to be involved with Death Café and am looking forward to the event next Tuesday. I am not going as parish priest, but as somebody who does funerals and wants to engage with the community, so that people can use the opportunity to talk about death as part of their own flourishing.
I will let you know how it goes.