Death Cafe in Colliers Wood - 21 October 2018
There were six of us round the table at the October meeting of the Colliers Wood Death Cafe.
Some of us had been to a Death Cafe before, and we used the beginning of the meeting to clarify for ourselves what Death Cafe is, and what the issues of death and dying evoke within us, acknowledging that this is individual and evolving.
There was a reflective and curious tone to our discussions, with more questions asked than answered.
We spoke about how quickly and drastically things can change, reflecting on how fragile our reality really is, and recognising the value of the precious present. There emerged a related theme around the inevitability of death: we will all die, but few (if any) of us know exactly when this will happen. We cannot control death, but we can plan for it.
We asked the question, what makes for a 'dignified' death, and what is it that we refer to when we speak of a 'good' death? Our conversation moved on to our thoughts, feelings and experiences of funerals, funeral practices, rites, rituals and the funeral industry. We continued to talk about affordable funerals that don't cost the earth and that reflect the person whose life is being marked.
We spoke about the medicalisation and professionalisation of death, and the advances in medical science that have enabled us to prolong life. We reflected on what quality of life means for each of us, and the circumstances under which we would wish to receive which treatments. This prompted us to consider the commencement of conversations about resuscitation - at what point should the issue be raised, and with whom? We began to talk about Advance Care Planning, and the roles of Advocates. Who's choice is it, and who's responsibility?
We explored the difficult terrain of suicide, and themes of regret, guilt and responsibility following a death by suicide. We spoke about agency, autonomy and selfhood. Do we have the right to demand that anyone suffer? What role do loneliness, and mental illness play? Are there diagnoses where the choice to end one's life should be more, or less available?
We talked about the human experience of loss that we share as creatures who struggle to make meaning in order to fill the void that is left in the wake of a death. We spoke about our own experiences of the shock that shakes us and the inevitable (though not necessarily immediate) re-alignment this necessitates.
With thanks to all who took part.
The next Colliers Wood Death Cafe will take place at Coffee in the Wood on Sunday 27 January 2019.
For more information please visit: https://deathcafe.com/deathcafe/7948/
and the Cafe's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/DeathCafeSW19/