Actor and director Woody Allen once famously said, “it’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens”. Generally most people feel the same way about the thought of their own mortality, and since they don’t want to think about it, they certainly don’t want to talk about it.
The latest of a series of endeavors by Wetaskiwin’s Susan Spyker, this one promises to be very interesting. It will be Wetaskiwin’s first Death Café. Susan has attended workshops on death, dying and bereavement. “I think it is important to face our mortality, to think about death in relation to ourselves, our family and friends, and to consider the presence of our living”. In her day job Susan is the Recreation Therapist for Wetaskiwin Hospital’s Long Term Care centre. As a result of her experience at Long Term Care, this type of thinking is not new to her. She “heard about Death Café at a spring grief and support workshop and “I immediately decided I needed to do a Death Café here in Wetaskiwin”.
What is a Death Café? “Despite the off putting name, many participants describe these events as life affirming, and even life changing, because a Death Café is a frank, unscripted, non-directed discussion about the subject of dying and death conducted at a safe location”, as in this case a church.
There is no standard or official format but will usually start with a facilitator that explains how things will work, and will offer an ice breaker that participants will initially discuss. It could be an open ended question such as “is it better to die unexpectedly in your sleep, or surrounded by loved ones?” Next the conversation is turned over to the participants, and can go anywhere. “Some might want to talk about stress caused caring for a loved one, while others might discuss the pros and cons of a do not resuscitate order ”. There is no attempt to direct the conversation during a Death Café and participants come from all walks of life, religious views, ages and education. This is a place where participants can express personal opinions about dying and death confidentially without fear of ridicule. The origin of Death Café is credited to Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz. He hosted the first such events in 2004 called “Café Mortels” in conjunction with his research. He then incorporated the results into a book. Soon after publication, the idea of hosting Death Cafes spread.
If you are interested in attending Death Café, it will be held on Sunday, November 17th from 2-4 pm in the lower level of Ebenezer Baptist Church 4730-51ave in Wetaskiwin. This is free to anybody interested, and there will be coffee, tea and cake served. Donations will be accepted. If you require more info please call Susan Spyker at 780-361-0169.