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Life, Death & Coffee?

By Kelsey Sunstrum on November 3, 2014

Linda Ellis, in her famous poem “The Dash,” writes of the time between our birth and our death; she called this the ‘dash.’ It is where we experience life, the world around us, and the people in it. Death cafés, a recent global phenomenon, have tapped into the notion of the dash in a way that may catch people by surprise. They center on the discussion of death all while in a friendly, warm setting.

While this may seem morbid to some, the intention is quite the opposite. One of the main goals is to bring greater appreciation of life and to encourage the living to seize the day. Another goal is simply to offer a safe space to converse on death and dying, as our society’s discomfort with the subject has made this difficult.

A death café is divided into two parts. The first half of the night puts a focus on death, dying, grief, and loss. The latter portion of the café transitions the talk to life and living. The hope is that a greater awareness and acceptance of death will afford individuals the motivation to live their lives better in the present. The acknowledgement that our time is limited is a powerful force in changing our lives to be more meaningful.

A misconception about this type of gathering could be that it is targeted only to individuals who have been impacted directly by death, either being close to their own or having lost a loved one. Kate Durie and Natalie Fraser, hosts of this very special event, explained that anyone can benefit from attending a death café. Living losses can be their own deaths. These include inevitable occurrences in life, such as break-ups, change in career or residence, or even self-transformations. Everyone has some kind of experience of letting go.

Beginning only in 2011, the death café movement has taken off internationally. Ottawa’s first death café took place a year ago and this Wednesday’s event will be the fourth the city has hosted. Jon Underwood and Sue Barsky Reid are responsible for the conception of the death café, which they based on the ideas set out by Swiss sociologist and anthropologist, Bernard Crettaz.

Death Café is happening from 7 – 10 pm on Wednesday, November 5 at Pressed (750 Gladstone Ave).  Tickets are a suggested donation of $10 and are available through Eventbrite. There are currently less than ten tickets left. For more information on this fascinating movement, please check out Ottawa Death Café’s Facebook page as well as the general Death Café website.