Tucson Friendly & Fearless Death Cafe

We’ve now had 7 Tucson Friendly and Fearless Death Cafés meeting virtually via zoom. I’ve hosted our local café for years and wasn’t sure how the virtual experience would be. We have all been excited by the “global Café front door” and have been joined by people from both coasts, areas outside Tucson in Arizona, and even London! It could be that the pandemic brings death closer to the bone for all of us, death looming larger than ever in our personal and planetary experience, but I’m finding our Café conversations arrestingly tender, filled with deep questioning, soul searching, and beautiful intimate sharing.


What follows are categorized paraphrases, quotes and summaries as a small snapshot of a single Café. So rich! Gratitude to Death Café and all attendees!


Big Love to Death Café’s!


I really enjoy Death Café’s. They are a really nice place to connect, hear about how people approach it, feel about it, experience it, and make sense of it (death).


What a neat thing to have a forum to talk about the greatest teacher, which is in my opinion, death.


It’s refreshing to have an environment where we can come and talk about death freely without being tied down with any of the dogma and negativity that’s been attached to it.


Sharing our Struggles: Uncertainty, Fear, Meaning-making


What is death? What does it mean to me? What does my death mean? What does the death of the people I care about mean?


I’m struggling with and can’t fathom the notion that I just won’t be here. My mind just can’t wrap itself around that. And it’s always good to hear other people’s feelings. I’m also considering the notion that civilizations can just disappear (having just read The Lost City of the Monkey God.)


What is the fear of death? I don’t have faith in the story I was taught and have great fear about the unknown. How do we make peace with the uncertainty of the fact that we won’t exist – it’s frightening.


I’m going to loose control, I won’t be here, that’s what drives me crazy!


Prior to the pandemic I wasn’t afraid of death. Now, seeing what’s happening, I find I have fear about that kind of horrible suffering and am wondering how to not spend time worrying about that.


I have an intellectual understanding about the cycle of life and death, but how do I find a way to accept it?


I’m interested in hearing how others cope with their grief.


I’m struggling with aging and finding it frightening and kind of disconcerting.


I’m struggling with being alone.


Sharing Stories


One person shared that she had an accident and knowing that she would die someday, considered that might be the day. A great peacefulness came over her and has helped her be more at peace with death than ever before. Recalling Dustin Hoffman’s proclamation, “It’s a good day to die,” from the movie Little Big Man, she said, “Today might be a good day to die, I don’t know. I’ve kind of got things I want do!”


A long time palliative care nurse shared that she has shifted focus in her work to include helping patients release feelings and the energy around shame. She described how in facing death, we can become vulnerable and exposed in a number of ways, by the need to rely on care from others, and perhaps feel like a burden, in our leaving of material artifacts for others to deal with, perhaps yet another burden. In loosing the control over our lives that we once had we may loose the ability to manage how we are perceived in the world. This may bring concerns about what legacy we are leaving and whether our lives had meaning.


One person shared that she had this dream after the death of her son. Her son visited her and in the dream she felt contentment, content to die and accepting of death. That dream experience helped her move from denial and shock to feeling that “it’s real and there is a transition space.”


A long time Café attendee shared this story of the hourglass. He said 2 things happen, as the sand moves through; it etches the narrow space making the sand go faster. As the last grain drops, somebody might come along and turn it over! It’s his belief that that is what happens. He has no fear of death only of suffering with the transition and can even make some peace with that as some kind of lesson to be discovered.


One person shared the story of her Aunt’s death in which she had a wonderful week of togetherness, storytelling, singing songs, saying goodbyes and even seeing familial relationships healed. She declared, “This is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life! This is the best! This is so fabulous!” The following week, she died a peaceful, comfortable death and was lucid to the end. It can happen!


Thoughts to Ponder


None of us have a fear about what life was like before we were born, but it’s very common to fear what will happen when we die.


Death doesn’t only apply to us. We can consider death in relation to systems, economic, political, social and even civilizations as a whole.


It takes courage to die, and to release those fears. It takes a lot of courage and I hope I have it when it’s time for me to go. I feel like the older I get the less courage I have and I thought it would be the other way around. I’m trying to find courage again, especially in these days of the pandemic.


If you don’t know what you believe, and it’s causing anxiety, perhaps pick something to believe that is comforting. You can always change your mind later!

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