This was the third in a series of 5 Death Cafes planned to be held at Coffee in the Wood, Colliers Wood, London SW19 this year.
The cafe was attended by eight people, who met together with myself and Kevin, my co-host. We decided to have a conversation as a larger group rather than dividing the group and having different discussions simultaneously, salon style.
Our conversation moved between different themes including what makes for a 'beautiful' or 'peaceful' death, and how different our constructions of these might be. We posed the questions: what sort of death might we wish for ourselves, and for our loved ones?
We returned to a now familiar theme around the challenges of starting a conversation. We talked about having discussions, and the importance of recording our wishes, as a service to those left behind.
We reflected on how thinking about our own deaths prompts us to consider our own finitude and to reflect on the current state of our relationships. We thought about forgiveness, and about our social media legacies - what is left behind when someone dies.
Related to this we considered how it feels to find out about a death via social media, which caused us to enquire how we would like people to learn about our death, and what mechanisms we might need to put in place to make this possible.
We went on to talk about the taboos of recording funerals, which often comprise gatherings of individuals who might not otherwise come together very often (if at all). Why shouldn't we take photos, as we do at every other one of life's events?
We considered the ways in which we have perhaps, as a society, become disconnected from death and the role that the medicalisation and sanitisation of the dying process has played to contribute to this disconnect with disempowering consequences: How much do we know about death? How prepared are we? Do we know what happens as someone dies? What it looks like?
We talked about funeral practices and began to consider the question of who is a funeral for? We reflected on our own experiences of planning and attending funerals, and the difference between celebrating a life and mourning a death. We discussed different cultural traditions, rites and rituals and the possibilities for coming together, gathering, sharing, and comforting. 'Closure' was examined, and the role that seeing the dead body of a loved one might serve to assist someone in their mourning.
We have future cafes planned in October and November.