Death Cafe comes to Vancouver

By Romen Rey

Q: What is “Death Café”?

A: Death Café was started in September 2011, by Jon Underwood and Sue Barsky Reid in Hackney, England. The objective of Death Café is “to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their [finite] lives.”

To be an officially sanctioned Death Café, the founders’ principles must be maintained. First, there must be no goal to lead the participants to any conclusion, viewpoint, product, service or course of action. Second, discussion must be open, respectful and in a confidential space where people can express their views safely. Third, Death Café must be offered on a not for profit basis. Fourth, Death Café is not bereavement support or grief counseling, nor is it a forum to give people information about death and dying. Death Café was started, and continues to be, a place where people can come together to talk about death while enjoying food and beverages, typically coffee, tea, cocoa, along with cake. “Nothing marks to community of the living like sharing food and drink.”

Q: How long is a Death Café meeting?

A: Generally, Death Café runs about two hours. It is long enough to give everyone an opportunity to introduce themselves, and then, an opportunity to speak at least once. How much an individual participant can speak depends on the size of the group.

Q: Are there specific topics or speakers?

A: No. The founders believed that people have enough to say on their own that they do not need to be talked to about death. Along the same line, there is no agenda or topic for the meeting. The only thing the founders ask of those holding Death Cafés is to avoid promoting religions or churches, businesses, services or products. That goes for participants as well. Death Café is not a front for a particular viewpoint.

Q: Is there a cost to attend a meeting?

A: In keeping with the not-for-profit nature of Death Café, they are either free of charge or ask for a donation to cover refreshments and/or rental of the venue. Sometimes the host of a Death Café will offer the choice of a food or beverage donation in lieu of a money donation.

Q: Who may attend?

A: People age 18 and older.

Q: How do I find a Death Café meeting?

A: All officially sanctioned Death Café meetings are listed at the Death Café website: deathcafes. The meetings are currently being held around the world. PDX Death Café meetings have been going for about 18 months, and more are planned. Check the website if it is more convenient to go to a Death Café in Portland (“PDX Death Café”). There are Facebook pages for the Portland and the Vancouver groups.

“Death Café at the ‘Couv” will be held on at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, April 12, at 3214 N.E. 42nd St., Suite B, in Vancouver. Space is limited to 20 people; those interested are asked to RSVP on their website. An overflow list will be available. The next meeting will be in Vancouver in July.