Cupcakes, Tea and Death Too.
September 14, 2013 found fifteen Baltimoreans along with one traveler that hailed from Newark, Delaware gathering for Death Cafe Baltimore. Death Cafe Baltimore's venue was at the Atwater's Belvedere Square location. A philosophical discussion on the finite nature of life transpired over a 2 hour time slot. The discussions that transpired shed light on living itself.
Participants ranged in age from 35 to 85 +. The participants gathered into small groups where members delved into a two hour discussion forum on variable elements relating to death. Without much need for the icebreaker questions provided by hosts the two hours flew by quickly.
One group started their discussion by sharing their personal motivations for coming to Death Cafe Baltimore. Health Care connected participants spoke about keeping death/loss in the forefront of their own lives so that the desensitization that they go through in order to keep emotional boundaries while at work wont transpire into their own lives. "I don't want to wake up one day after a personal loss and realize that I didn't allow myself to grieve". The topic of Bereavement Leave in the USA streamed into the conversation highlighting that rigid corporate human resource policies dictate how our society is suppose to grieve along with who we can grieve while giving us 3 days to do it. One group member asked, "What if we are closer to a pet than our family ?" Another member added " If my dad dies at 85 I might be more apt to deal this anticipatory grief but if my best friend tragically dies at 50 years of age I am not allowed to take bereavement leave because a friend is not a "first degree relative". This led to a comment by another member which brought laughter, "Oh that's right it will only take 3 days to grieve over my dad". We wondered on how other countries deal with bereavement leave.
A senior member of the group shared that she wants to talk about Death but can't with her own family. "They don't want to talk about it." She went on to share of the warmth of home funeral she has had.
One of the eldest participants told a story in answering the question, "What do you want to do before you die?" "I have done it all", he replied sharing his story as the younger participants listened intently.
The gentleman told his listeners of a perfect day skiing in Italy. He described the perfect run down the longest trail in Europe which was filled with sun, wind as well as joy. The elation in his voice lit up his eyes while telling his story only that only got better when he told the group what he did when he reached the end of the trail. He went on to tell the group that he took his ski boots off placing them along with his ski's on the side of the road. He was fulfilled with the perfection of that one run down the mountain that he wanted to savor in that moment forever.
The group concluded with a reading by one of our facilitators. Here it is for you...
KEEP YOUR FORK
There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things “in order” she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the services, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in.
Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her. “There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly. “What’s that?” said the pastor. “This is very important,” the young woman replied. “I want to be buried with a fork in my hand.”
The pastor stood there looking at the young woman, not knowing what to say. “That surprises you doesn’t it?” the young woman asked. “Well to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the pastor. The young woman explained.
“My grandmother once told me this story, and from there on out, I have always done so. I have always tried to pass along the message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘KEEP YOUR FORK.’ It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming… like velvety chocolate cake or deep dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance! So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder ‘What’s with the fork?’ Then I want you to tell them: “Keep your fork… the best is yet to come.”
The pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye. He knew this would probably be the last time he would see her before her death. But he also knew the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than people many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She knew that something better was coming.
At the funeral people were walking by the young woman’s casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand.
Over and over, the pastor heard the question ‘What’s with the fork?’ And over and over he smiled. During the message, the pastor to the people of the conversation he had with the woman shortly before her death. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. The pastor also told the people that he had not stopped thinking about the fork since their conversation and that he hoped they would not stop thinking about it either.
Keep your fork… the best is yet to come.
Thanks everyone for coming. We will be posting a date for the next Death Cafe Baltimore very soon.
Amy & Val
STATS: 16 Attendees
Surveys Completed = 12
Ages: 35 - 44 = 2
45 - 54 = 1
55 - 62 = 2
25 - 34 = 1
75 - 84 = 1
85 + = 1
What 3 words participants used to described this death cafe:
Enlightening, open, nonjudgmental, engaging, amusing, enlightening, Inspiring, Great, Thought provoking, Freeing, terrific, enjoyable, engaging, interesting, humorous, informative, creative, Enlivening (had to look this one up!)