Death Cafes have swept the world as a way to tackle a taboo subject head-on – and Mancos has joined in the movement.
Every third Thursday of the month, a handful of conversation-minded residents gather at the library to talk death, with tea and cake at hand. It’s not morbid – on the contrary, it’s more like a book club or social gathering.
“(The) purpose is really simply a discussion about embracing the sacred in everyday life, including the art of being and dying and to connect with other gentle souls on this Earth journey and share ideas,” said Midge Kirk, who coordinates adult programming at the Mancos Public Library.
Death Cafes first arose about eight years ago, founded by Jon Underwood in East London. Their purpose is to offer a venue for people to discuss death in a social setting, to normalize a topic many are hesitant to broach.
“There is no leader, no agenda; it is not about religion or grief counseling, politics or anything but discussion,” Kirk said.
They’ve become somewhat of a trend, now happening in dozens of countries, Kirk said.
According to the Death Cafe website, the movement’s objective is “to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives.”
Tea and cakes have come to be a staple of the Death Cafe, sparking pun-filled headlines like “Death Be Not Decaffeinated: Over Cup, Groups Face Taboo” (The New York Times) or “The Death Cafe Movement: Tea and Mortality” (Independent).
The Mancos Public Library’s first Death Cafe was held in October 2018. Since then, a handful regularly show up to their monthly gatherings, with attendance ranging from about eight to 25 at every meeting, Kirk said.
They’ve covered a wide range of topics at their monthly meetings, both practical and philosophical. They talk about life after death and cultural perspectives on death, but also estate and burial planning.
Some of their meetings have death-related guest speakers. Montezuma County Coroner George Deavers has made an appearance, as have staff from Ertel Funeral Home, who spoke on green burials, cremations, and more.
At the latest meeting on Oct. 17, the discussion ranged from grieving well to Do Not Resuscitate bracelets and MOST (Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment) forms, which dictate a patient’s preference for life-saving treatments.
Knowing how to react to someone in grief can be difficult, and one woman brought up the practice of “compassionate presence,” the idea of just being present with someone who is grieving.
Someone else asked whether it’s easier to get over a sudden or a long death of a loved one. Most agreed that a long death was better – to have time to say goodbye.
And they discussed the overall attitude toward death in the United States and the focus on keeping people alive rather than accepting death as a natural course of action. There is no right answer – some may want to be able to let go, or have an assisted suicide, while others may want to “fight with every ounce.”
Every person and every case is different, they decided, which is why these conversations need to happen before the time comes, and with those who will ultimately be making the final decisions.
Which is where Death Cafe comes in. To inspire conversations, to talk about death, and to share personal stories of grief – and perhaps some of celebration or healing.
“Everybody’s got a story,” said one cafe attendee at last week’s meeting.
email@example.comThis article was updated Oct. 24 to correct the number of countries where Death Cafes are held.