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  • Writer's pictureDrew Dotson

Livin' it up at the Death Café

When I imagine a café, I picture an atmosphere teeming with energy — pleasant smells, bits of conversation and laughter, an overall sense of coziness. But when I first heard the term “Death Café,” my brain needed a moment to process. I’d never heard those words in such close proximity and certainly not paired together. Yet on Sunday evening, I found myself at my first Death Café.

So, what in the world is a Death Café? In short, it’s a place where people (who are often strangers) get together to discuss death. And if this sounds like your worst nightmare, that’s okay. The Death Café’s written objective is “to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives.” To me, this sounded way more inspiring than fear inducing.

All my life I’ve struggled to find a space where I could talk freely about death, especially as I worked to wrap my head around my cystic fibrosis (CF) diagnosis. When it comes to chronic and/or terminal illness, simply acknowledging your mortality can make people think you’re waving the white flag — giving up the fight. But, in reality, most people battling illness are simply “trying to make the most of their (finite) lives.” And doing so means facing the fact that this amazing opportunity to live won’t last forever.

Aside from the occasional conversation with one of my fellow CFers, I really had no death forum until I started seeing a therapist in my early 20s. Where can we, as a society, comfortably discuss the fact that we’ll all die? The most mind-blowing part of all is that death is a natural part of the human life cycle, yet we refuse to look it in the eye.

But on Sunday, I found myself sitting on a cushion in a circle of strangers who wanted to talk about death. These people must have seen an event announcement and said, “Heck yeah! Death!” rather than running in the opposite direction. “These are my people,” I thought as I registered for the event. Though we only spent two hours together, I talked more intimately with these randos than I have with many people in my life.

And I loved every minute of it.

I’m not returning to Lackville here, but HOLY MOLY do I wish Western culture could change its death-as-taboo mindset. Of course we’re uncomfortable with death because, well, fear often results from lack of understanding. What if we spent some time in school talking about real-life inevitabilities instead of how to differentiate between prime and composite numbers?

But hey. While we’re a far cry from collectively embracing the Death Positive Movement, I’m grateful to have stumbled upon a Death Café. It was refreshing to talk openly and without judgment.

A better life starts with accepting death.

Grim Reaper signing off.


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