A strong sense of affirmation, validation, and community.

On a sweltering evening in June, 25 mere mortals gathered in a cool room at the Beechwood National Memorial Centre to engage in a lively conversation about death. Many participants were already familiar with the venue from previous celebrations of life or visits to its established cemetery, well-known for community events and serene landscape.


People of various ages and stages came together to share common ground and differing opinions. A recurring theme in many stories was related to the clarity and authentic expression that often emerges during times of grief. There was discussion around the relief that can accompany a death, particularly of a parent or someone for whom there’s been active caregiving, and shared acknowledgement of feeling liberated from cultural expectations, responsibilities, and complex relational dynamics.


As one participant noted, “In a positive and constructive way, it gave voice to unspoken feelings and created a strong sense of affirmation, validation, and community."


Discussions on legacy, ancestral remembrance, and death anniversaries brought awareness to larger timescales and prompted reflections on those who died decades or even centuries ago. There was contemplation about how strangers encountering gravestones on a regular basis or during their daily commute might remember these individuals more often than their own descendants.


The group shared personal experiences and spoke of various funeral and memorial practices, such as Keening in the Gaelic Celtic tradition and the Mesoamerican and South American festival, The Day of the Dead.


Participants described the evening as welcoming, affirming, validating, valuable, accepting, cathartic, safe, and encouraging, reminding everyone of the stories we all carry. Tears and laughter were shared, fostering a sense of connection and community, and an eagerness for more discussions like these — and more cake!

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