How Old is Old Enough?

“Why are you here?” The host asked each of the attendees gathered around the white round table in a KFC outlet in Surulere.

“I’m curious about the meeting and wondering why people will be talking about death.”

“The only reason I’m here is ‘cos I came along with my brother, to make sure he doesn't have suicide tendencies, this one he is meeting up with people that are talking about death." This caused an outburst of laughter around the table and set Death Cafe; firmly underway for the last time in 2017, the year it first began in Lagos, Nigeria

Within the next 90 minutes, the conversation went non-stop…

…opinions were stated…,

“There’s no normal person that wakes up and says I want to die.”

“The fear of death and dying is universal.”

A counter-opinion went something like this…

The fear of death is more of an African thing, the content of our prayers which is mainly focused on casting demons and witches and wizards is a testament. In contrast, the content of the Europeans prayers for instance, is mainly about giving thanks. Some people are less worried about dying.

Questions were asked…

“Why talk about death anyway? It will come when it will, why talk about it? What’s the point?”

An answer was offered…

“Talking about death minimizes the dread of death.”

One attendee went on to make a reference to the poem, Annabel Lee by the Poet, Edgar Allan Poe, saying how he wrote a lot about death and often in flowery and romanticized terms which essentially stripped off the dread in death.

The group went on to talk about the low level of life expectancy in Nigeria, conceding that this must be the reason why we throw elaborate parties and celebrate death when old people die, like the case of one of the attendees who’s grandma recently died at the age of 105. There was no contest around the table and everyone seemed to agree unanimously when someone said, “She lived 3 lives.” It was also discussed that most people throw elaborate parties just to show off and in some cases, to keep up with the expectations their community have of them, so they don’t ‘fall their hand’.

One attendee said he did not understand why in the Igbo tradition, people celebrated death when the person died young, saying such a death in Yoruba land was considered to be premature. To which another, paraphrasing Heidegger, replied, “At the point a child is born, he’s old enough to die.”

Death Café is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counseling session. It is a non-profit initiative.

The Death Café model was developed by Jon Underwood and Sue Barsky Reid, based on the ideas of Bernard Crettaz.

The objective of Death Café is 'to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives.’

The next Death Café session in Lagos will hold on Sunday, 4th February, 2018.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year in Advance.

Merry regards,

Hope and the Death Café Team.

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