Sackville’s first “Death Café” took place at the Black Duck Inn on Bridge Street last Wednesday evening. Despite the wintry weather outside, 19 people attended the event from 7 to 9 p.m. Age wise, it was a more mature crowd – a mix of strangers and friends – who showed up to talk to each other about death and dying, a largely taboo topic in our society.
After everyone had time to get settled with their hot beverages and tasty treats, Death Café “host”, Stephen Claxton-Oldfield, talked briefly about the philosophy of the Death Café and how the movement got started. Claxton-Oldfield, an associate professor of psychology at Mount Allison University, is also the chair of the Tantramar Hospice Palliative Care Organization (THPCO), which organized last week’s event. One of THPCO’s stated objectives, in addition to advocating for quality hospice palliative care in the Tantramar region, is to raise awareness of end-of-life issues, and one way to do this is to get people talking about death and dying.
The atmosphere of the Black Duck Inn was inviting and relaxing. With refreshments ordered (nourishing food and drink is a big part of a Death Cafe), tables lit with candles creating an intimate glow, and introductions out of the way, the attendees broke into two groups and wonderful conversations, occasionally punctuated by laughter, began to unfold on both sides of the cafe.
Topics and discussions at Death Cafés are group-directed, with no set agenda. Questions were prepared in case the conversation stalled; they were not needed!
Conversations flowed easily and naturally as people shared thoughts about their own mortality, their personal experiences with death and dying, and the need to live in the now and truly enjoy life.
No one hesitated to speak and no one’s views were judged as right or wrong. Being able to talk openly and freely with others about such an intimate topic served to reaffirm people’s feelings about death and/or life and opened their minds to other viewpoints. People want to talk about end-of-life issues, but don’t always have a safe and supportive environment in which to do so.
Words used most often to describe the participants’ Death Café experience included emotional (but in a good way), thoughtful, comfortable, compassionate, warm and honest.
The two hours passed quickly as people sipped tea, nibbled delicious cake, and talked about death, dying, and living their lives to the fullest. By the end of the snowy mid-March evening, and new friendships were made.
Based on the feedback, organizers say this is definitely something that will be done again. There is nothing morbid or depressing about attending a Death Café. On the contrary, it is an uplifting and life-affirming experience.
For more information about Death Cafés, visit their website at deathcafe.com.
For more information about THPCO, visit thpco.ca.