Best of Saturday to you wherever you are, whatever you are doing... As the weekend and August moves along, I recently received an invitation to gather friends for a dinner to sit around and talk about "death". A death dinner if you will as we remember the birthday of Elisabeth Kulber-Ross and also join with others who will be doing the same across the world on August 24 this year. The invite came from her son, a friend of mine, Ken Ross and the EKR Foundation. As I read it, I had to reflect on a recent NPR release talking about the number of "Death Cafes" that are breathing life into conversations around the country and the globe these days. Sitting with others in cafes, restaurants and around the table having those conversations that most prefer to not talk about. As I thought about the birth of a remarkable woman, a triplet, one who grew into a larger than life example of compassion, beauty, kindness and no bullshit along her life... I couldn't help but wonder what she would think of her legacy as many will toast a glass to her as they sit around tables to talk about death with friends, colleagues, family, and acquaintances on the anniversary of her birth this month.
I can hear in my thoughts the thoughts of the waiter at the table, other diners as they maybe hear some of those conversation held... Death and dinner in the same breath is interesting to me, along with "death cafe"... something about it rings odd. The idea is fascinating, and I wonder how many will attend each dinner party, what they will wear, the nervous anticipation of each as the wine is poured.
Death and dying still hard to grasp for so many, remembering the strain when those who are grieving enter a group for the first couple of sessions; the lack of eye contact, the shift in body posturing... the differences of opinions and thoughts that often are hard to form into words. But, folks do want to feel safe in talking, need validations and questions answered for decisions that are soon to be faced or have long been thought about. They seem to not want to be the one to walk across that threshold though, so perhaps over a casual dinner it would be easier somehow.
Many have reported enjoying participating in and hosting "death cafe" gatherings... being with others who are of like mind or different mind talking about hard issues and transitions.
The EKR Foundation sent a lovely invitation for those who want to have a dinner with others on August 24th... they ask that you send your email address and let them know of your joining. You can imagine that Elisabeth will be listening in as she dances on clouds ...
What do you think? Would you host a death dinner, attend a death dinner or cafe?
Your dinner can be as simple or as elaborate as your imagination allows. The important thing is to gather friends, family, or even complete strangers at a table and engage in the discussion surrounding end of life care. You will receive exclusive access to the website www.deathoverdinner.org on August 12 and it will provide you with a step-by-step guide for fostering the conversation and your own dining experience.
Every dinner we’ve done on the topic has been life affirming, powerful and yes, even fun! In fact, our concept has caught on like wildfire around the world!
Our goal is to create a global evening of people gathering at the dinner table wherever they are… engaging in one of the most important conversations you’ll ever participate in. In short, how would you like to live up until the very moment you die? All we ask is that you use the dinner table as a place to explore mortality and your own end-of-life wishes.
Where should you host your dinner? We have already received commitments for dinners in Australia, India, Florida, California, New York, and Washington state. The dinners we know about so far, will feature barbecues, picnics, and full-on gourmet experiences.
We also know that some people will be making reservations at their favorite restaurant, which is fine by us. So gather your friends, family, or even complete strangers — and meet at the table… wherever your table is! Eat and drink whatever you choose, but engage in the conversation. It may feel awkward at first, but once you start, you’ll be oh-so glad you did!
Here are three sample activities from past dinners and on August 12, our website (www.deathoverdinner.org) will give you other ideas for discussion.
Still have questions? Of course, you can email us at the contact info at the bottom of this page.
So circle the date: August 24, 2013… and join us for Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death… wherever you are!
Our full site will be customizing the conversation topics based upon who you are gathering at the table – grandparents, parents, close friends, co-workers, strangers, children. However, here are some example activities that we have used at previous dinners.
ACTION 1To start the evening, let’s bring a sense of gratitude to the table and acknowledge our ancestors. Let’s do a quick around the table introduction, to be completed with a “raise of the glass” to someone who is no longer with us, someone you admire deeply… and in no more than twenty words, share why you admire them.
ACTION 2If you have experienced death close at hand or even from a distance… please share the most powerful end of life experience you’ve witnessed. Who was it, how were their last days/moments spent, and what made it poignant and inspiring?
ACTION 3And simply: What do your final days look like? Who is around you? Are you at home, in a hospital, are you on safari in Kenya, aloft in a hot air balloon with vintage champagne on ice? Imagine! What would YOU like?
As you gnaw on the idea, think it through, one thing is certain... folks have never wanted to talk about death as much as they do these days. BUT then again, folks have never been as exposed to dying as much as they have these days, on the streets, in social media and across the sea and land. Grief is still a subject that many will put a wall around, will affect the body, mind spirit... making dinner nearly impossible as the thought of gathering with others and the smells of food more than many can stand. But to talk, to feel safe, to cross the threshold is paramount to taking steps through the journey in our lives.
Would you host or attend a death dinner?
Who would you toast?
Who would you trust with your 20 words of honor?
Take gentle care of you.
Walk in beauty,