Alton Death Café 20th July 2017
Our second Death Café held in the Allen Gallery Alton held 7-9 pm on 20th July 2017.
Diana and I welcomed 11 people some who had travelled from further afield to attend.
We were able to host this first Death Café in Alton in the wonderful Allen Gallery who are in the midst of their Jane Austen exhibition. Jane died 200 years ago on the 18th of July and lived in Chawton, a lovely village very close to Alton. We are very grateful for the lovely volunteers who helped make the evening a success.
The death of Jon Underwood and Jane Austen, two exceptional people who both died very young yet left a lasting legacy, made this evening very special. We paid tribute to Jon and his vision and we are keen to expand his vision to reach an ever-wider audience in Hampshire by alternating holding the Death Café’s between Petersfield and Alton.
Again, we instinctively choose to stay in a group circle rather than have smaller groups. We had a discussion around the benefits of smaller or larger groups. We had taken insights of other groups on board and are very open to have a different format depending on the numbers as well.
After our introduction, we invited everyone to do the same and the discussion immediately flowed very freely as the first question arose immediately from the introductions.
Interesting topics came up, some of which even the professionals amongst us had never thought about. To experience the sharing of wisdom between of a group of strangers to one another, yet with a common bond of wanting to be at a Death Café, was inspiring.
We talked about:
· Bodies in museums as body relics, mummies, bones, plastination
· Donating bodies to medical science
· Organ donation and respect for the dead donor
· When does a person cease to be and becomes a body?
· How do you know when a person has really died and their soul has ‘left’ their body?
· Seeing bodies displayed in different cultures, Mexico, Peru, Canada
· Different perspectives from being Quaker, Pagan, Humanist, lapsed Catholic
· ACP documentation; Living Wills; ADRT
· Making decisions about wishes now – but they may change
· Shared experiences of dementia and wishes when no longer able to state those
· Family strain around not having these conversations
· The window of opportunity to have these conversations and how to introduce them
· Hospitals are for Dr’s not patients, how can medical staff better facilitate these conversations
· Shared experiences of children not being involved around death and funerals
· Respecting the different approach to dying, from people who are more cognitive and may not want or need the more emotive approach usually displayed by the caring professions
· Some families do not talk about emotions full stop, let alone dying or death
· An observation of the lack of discussion between young people on death and dying
· Explored the name Death Café, could it put people off? How did Jon Underwood think of it in the first place?
We forgot the evaluation forms but we noticed the time after the ending seems very important for people to linger a little longer. We saw people chatting, cards being exchanged, connections being made.
We will think about the importance of ‘unwind’ time and how to incorporate that so the room rental does not over run but equally people do have some time to ask questions. We were thanked profusely and with warmth and kindness, a true indication that we are trying our very best to do the right thing.