Three months ago I made the decision to host Orlando’s first Death Cafe. This was a sudden decision, though it felt to me as if things had been leading up to it for a while. A West Coast friend had recently blogged about her experiences attending her first Death Cafe, and I thought “huh! I would like to do that as well”. I realized that over the past year or so I’d accumulated more than just a few friends who worked within or were involved in studies or researches surrounding some aspect of the Death industry. And, well, my mother had just passed away two months prior, so I was still (and still am) processing that.
A search for a local Death Cafe proved fruitless; the closest being in Ocala, which I believe is an hour and a half drive from where I live. Why not just host my own, I thought. According to the Death Cafe website, Death Cafes are considered a social franchise and anyone can do it. Why not me, indeed!
With some much needed encouragement from friends who pointed me in the direction of some Death Cafe veterans for advice and mentoring, I made my decision. Me, someone who can barely open her mouth to speak to a stranger. I was going to gather unfamiliar humans together and facilitate an afternoon’s discussion on Death.*
I was equally parts excited beyond belief and sick to death with dread.
I registered with the Death Cafe site and made an event page. I created a facebook page for related content and updates. I created a twitter account and to be thorough, I enlisted the help of a dear friend to create a separate blog for it (which, Death Cafe novices – if you are reading this, do not do those last two things. I was contacted by Death Cafe and asked to take down the blog and twitter account. Apparently this is a no-no that is somewhere listed in their rules, using the words ‘deathcafe’ in your twitter handle and/or blog. I had overlooked that and rectified it as soon as possible). I posted about it on my own twitter account, my tumblr account, and my instagram. And before you dismiss these as frivolous venues, you should know that one attendee did find it through tumblr, and another found it through my instagram account!
The months flew by, and Orlando Florida’s first Death Cafe was held on Saturday May 17th. On a rare, beautiful spring-like day, eleven people sought each other out to explore various thoughts surrounding their own mortality and discuss that aeons old Lurker, Death. For some Death was a familiar notion, and were well acquainted with it. They shared their stories, their wisdom, their insights. For others, Death was a stranger, a more abstract idea, and around this they expressed their expectations and their fears. Conversation was lively, punctuated by bursts of laughter and quieter chuckles of mirth – as well as, small silences and pauses for reflection. Topics ran the gamut, ranging from one’s first awareness of one’s own mortality, to the wish to be present (or not) when loved one has passed, from writing one’s own eulogy, to the decline of obituaries, and what to do with a parent’s remains when they have made no last wishes? In addition to the pieces of themselves that everyone shared, most all attendees brought delicious treats to the events, which were well received. As expected, cosying up so closely with Death for an afternoon leaves the soul a mite peckish.
*Many, MANY thanks to my generous sister and brother in law for opening their home up for this event. I really could not have done this without you guys, and I appreciate it more than you know. Also: sorry for leaving all that flour on the floor.