For centuries, man gathered at coffee houses, tea houses, and cafés to discuss and build community. Philosophers, thinkers, and mathematicians crowded themselves together around fare of refreshments in search of greater understanding and camaraderie of fellow academics. Cafes are still seen as watering holes for both physical and spiritual nourishment.
The first day in June, I entered the basement of Oakmont library, apple turnovers in hand, to participate in my first Death Café. As opposed to the mental gymnastics of our existence and purpose, the Death Café’s main focus is on discussing the act of dying. About two dozen other members of the community intermingled with polite conversation.
“Who brought the cookies? “
“Are these strawberries from your garden?”
All polite conversations skirting the true reason why we actually came.
Only a handful of participants at the library participated in a Death Café before, the first one hosted in the Pittsburgh area was at the Frick House this past February.
After we were broken into small groups and introduced, a moderator supervised each table, letting the conversation flow naturally. Topics ebbed and flowed from the death of a woman’s husband and the relief of life insurance, to the joy of music therapy in hospice care, to the ins and outs of requirements for a proper Catholic burial. Shortly, laughter and chatter overtook the heavy air of anticipation that everyone entered into.
The Death Café is a nonprofit that begin in 2011 and currently hosts cafes in over 50 countries. To date, they’ve offered over 4,000 cafes. It is a nonprofit corporation, run completely by volunteers. Their objective is to “increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their finite lives.”
There are several upcoming Death Café events including August 9 at Wigle Whiskey, September 17 at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, and October 25 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the North Hills. Details for the next two events are below.
Details for upcoming Death Café Events
Wigle Whiskey – August 9 at 6:00 p.m.
This event will run more like a cocktail party than a discussion group. We’ll welcome you at the door with introductions and name tags, there will be some games and questions to break the ice, and cocktails for purchase. Food will be potluck style and we ask you to bring a small appetizer or savory snack to share. The space is primarily outdoors and we’ll be there rain or shine (with tents in the event of rain). Admission is free! RSVP’s are helpful for planning, but not required.
Westmoreland Museum of American Art – Septepmber 17 at 1:30 p.m.
There is no cost to attend, but the organizers ask participants to make a donation to the host (Westmoreland Art Museum) and bring a hand held snack to share with everyone attending such as cookies, cupcakes, or fruit. More information can be found at www.facebook.com/groups/DeathCafePittsburgh or RSVPs can be sent to DeathCafePittsburgh@gmail.com.