The very first Death Cafe was held in East London in 2011. Founders Jon Underwood and Sue Barsky Reid wanted to make discussions about death less daunting by presenting them in socially friendly environments. Lizzy Miles brought the first Death Café in the U.S. to Columbus, Ohio in September, 2012 and from there they took on a life of their own. Death Cafe San Diego arrived in May of 2013 when Karen Van Dyke pioneered the first one in North Park. Karen’s goal was to have a Death Cafe in every neighborhood in San Diego. While we haven’t reached that goal quite yet, today you can find them from Central San Diego, up to North County over to East County and down to South Bay. Worldwide there have been more then 1,200 Cafes hosted in over 23 countries.
At Death Cafés, people come together in a relaxed, safe setting to discuss life, death, and dying while making the most of our finite lives. It’s not a therapy or grief group; it’s simply a welcoming forum for discussion over tea and cake. Refreshments are one of the principles of the Cafe. The linking of food and drink comes from Bernard Crettaz’s Cafe Mortels concept. Mr. Crettaz said that ‘nothing marks to community of the living like sharing food and drink’.
Death Café is built on the premise that many people want to talk about death, but don’t feel comfortable addressing it with family and friends. The safe, secure, confidential atmosphere of Death Café fosters dialogue among individuals who share a curiosity and desire to explore the end of life and its surrounding issues. There aren’t many places where talking about death is OK. We want to provide that environment, and help lead the discussion. The concept is rather simple and civilized. There is no promoting of product or services. There is no specific agenda, religious or otherwise. The topics can include nuts and bolts of end-of-life planning, like wills, power of attorney for financial, advanced directives as well as esoteric topics such as, “Is there life after death?”.
Come to a Death Cafe and you will find out how life affirming it can truly be. In the words of Steve Jobs, “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of LIfe. It is Life’s change agent.”