Write Up for Chambana Death Cafe September 2017
Our most recent death café was held on September 16, 2017 at the Unity Church and Spiritual Center on Main Street in Urbana, Illinois.
There were a total of eleven of us around the tables. One woman left early to attend to a car problem. Two people were new and two attendees were thirteen years old.
People heard about this Death Cafe through word of mouth, Facebook event posting, a flyer, and from family or friends.
After a quick round of introductions the conversation started with topics including green burials and cremation and death rituals.
There was a fair amount of discussion about the similarities between Jewish and Baha'i death practices. For example in both religions it is preferable to have a person buried in 24 hours and embalming is rarely done.
There is a Baha'i temple nearby and one of the new attendees works with others there providing care to those who have died by washing and wrapping bodies. She is very passionate about the care she gives.
Tibetan practices were touched upon as well as the use of crypts in some traditions. It was noted that different rituals often develop due to terrain like rocky ground and high water tables. The dead being unearthed with flooding in Louisiana during Hurrican Katrina was mentioned.
People discussed that it was difficult, often, to get music of their choice played during funerary services locally and they found this very frustrating.
There was conversation around the idea of being able to bury someone on privately held land or not and some shared information about body farms and/or donating oneself to medical science after death.
One person was very enthusiastic about green options like mushroom suits and it was mentioned that some choose to have their loved one's ashes turned into jewelry.
We served two kinds of cake along with coffee and water but most people brought their own drinks. We are considering cupcakes for the next death cafe. Hot drinks are not popular, at the moment, due to the excessive heat we have been experiencing.
We felt better prepared this day. We do know attendance was affected by holding this Death Cafe four hours ahead of the Pride Parade. I had several prior attendees say they had to skip this Death Cafe due to that but they plan on coming to the next one, in October.
Beyond being accessible and on the bus line we are aware that people are becoming a little more comfortable with bringing older children and are mindful to keep providing Death Cafes in environments in which children can do something else entirely if they do not really want to be part of the death conversation.
As an aside, I discovered that my personal doctor had read about Death Cafes. She was skeptical as to the purpose or helpfulness of Death Cafes so I invited her to join us some time.
I talk about Death Cafe a lot wherever I go.
Short evaluations were completed by all but one adult, anonymously. All participants (and guardians) gave permission for pictures to be posted on the Death Cafe website and on Facebook.
Comments ranged from "good discussions", "great refreshments and atmosphere" to "my views on death have not changed but added to my compassion and knowledge" and all would recommend attending Death Cafes in the future to friends and family".
I made it abundantly clear that Death Cafes do not have an agenda and stressed that they are simply conversations.
I do not ask for any monetary donations. I do encourage people to send donations to Death Cafe to help Jon Underwood's family keep Death Cafe going.
Keeping the conversations going is important to me.