I'm pleased to say that Huddersfield's first Death Cafe went really well.
I was extremely pleased by how it turned out.
There was a total of 13 people (that's including myself). It was held at the World Peace Cafe at the Vajrapani Buddhist Centre in Birkby. I don't think the discussion group could've had a better venue. A sense of calm and serenity ran throughout the cafe as people discussed death and dying - and ultimately life.
Due to the mixed response on Facebook and on the Huddersfield Examiner's website, I wasn't sure if those who had registered would even turn up. I would say that over 90% of them did (some brought their friends) - and afterwards they asked when the next one would be, which was always nice to hear.
The group started at 2:30pm and at about 2:35 a lady walked into the cafe. She went to the counter and ordered herself a coffee. I wasn't sure if she was part of the group and I didn't know how to ask her. Standing at the door holding a sign that said "DEATH & DYING" crossed my mind, but I thought it might put people off.
'I'll ask her,' a friend said.
He walked up to her and I heard him quietly say, 'Excuse me, have you come for the Death Cafe.'
The look she gave him was as if she was staring Mr G Reaper in the face. 'God, no,' she said.
My friend laugh, nervously.
This lady ended up joining the group and was one of the last three people to leave an hour after the group was supposed to finish.
Even though it was a discussion group based on death, this was only a minute section of the vast range of topics that was covered.
95% of the people who came were meeting one another for the first time. When we talk to strangers we naturally want to share our stories - and over coffee and cake, we naturally listen. When we actively listen to someone it's not only them who benefit, but we do too. Without realising it, when we give someone our attention and our time, a feeling of worth arises within us.
We are giving of ourselves. We are contributing to the greater good.
As for myself, I had to do very little. The admin was taken care of by my good friend, Susan Dewhurst (Over The Rainbow Workshops) and beforehand, all I did was type up and print 10 questions that I thought could be used as a guide, just in case people were stuck for what to talk about next.
The questions were:
1. Do you fear death?
2. How often do you think of death and dying, and why?
3. Do you believe in an afterlife? If you do, how does this belief affect your attitude to death and dying? How does it affect your attitude to living?
(The same goes for if you don't believe in life beyond the physical world; How does this belief affect your attitude to death and dying? How does it affect your attitude to living?)
4. How do you think the Hospice movement has affected our attitude towards death and dying?
5. Do you want to be buried or cremated?
6. Why do you think people don't want to talk about death and dying? Why do you think it is known as a taboo topic?
7. Do you visit cemeteries?
8. Why do you think death is feared by the majority?
9. Have you ever read any books on death and dying?
10. Do you see death as separate from life?
If you're thinking of setting up your own Death Cafe (which is not a cafe but a discussion group based in a cafe) then I highly recommend.
Remember, talking about death is talking about life.
And life isn't that scary, is it?