Death has been on my mind because I am preparing to facilitate a Death Café. The event is just what the name indicates: Participants gather for tea and pastries and discuss various aspects of death and loss. The goal is to increase our comfort level with a subject that is simultaneously mysterious and inevitable.
When I say I have been thinking about death, I mean it in a good way. I am considering how to treat the subject with sensitivity and realism. I want to encourage conversations that recognize emotions and go beyond them.
What has always fascinated me about death is that we treat every loss like the first one that has ever happened. We go through the various stages of grief (albeit rarely in the order or measure described by Elisabeth Kubler Ross) as if we are the first to have the experience. Why is there not an institutional history for death? Why isn't there a collective knowledge that reduces our grief? Why do we have to reinvent the process in every family through each generation? Why is it important that we have these reactions and emotions?
Conversations at Death Café don't delve into religious/spiritual beliefs. We take a more practical approach. Participants include people with advanced stage illnesses, hospice workers and loved ones.
Death Café has several homes around the world. To engage our team to lead a Death Café in your region, contact me. Or find an established group at www.deathcafe.org.
I've also been thinking about deliberation. Or maybe I should say I have been deliberating about deliberation. When I conduct interviews, I can always tell when I have asked a really good question: The answer involves deliberation. An interviewee could say, “Hmm, I never thought about that. Let me consider it for a second.” But no one ever says that. Instead, they talk their way through from the question to the answer. Sometimes it is a circuitous route; at other times the path is straight and direct.
When the answer takes a while, I enjoy listening because I know I am experiencing a mind at work, a work in progress. Even if it takes a while, a roundabout answer lets me get to know the person I am interviewing. I hear how they process information, how they think, what they think of themselves and what they think of others. Then, when the magical moment comes and they find the answer to my question, they seem satisfied, and they stop talking. I can see it on their faces and hear it in their voices, indicating, “Yes, I have found the answer.”
I have learned it is okay to circle a question a few times before I attempt to answer it. It's like looking at a great sculpture. I see the beauty of the piece from the front, but I understand it much more thoroughly if I examine it from the sides and the back. I can see its shape and detail and symbolism. As I explore questions about my life, I want to know their shape and detail and symbolism.
And when I reach the end of my life, I want to say I looked at the questions from all angles before I answered them.
TransForMission talk and signing -- plus a drawing and a big reveal
Thursday, October 15, 5:30 p.m.
Time Tested Books (Sacramento)
TransForMission talk, signing -- and more!
Saturday, October 17, 2:00 p.m.
Avid Reader at Tower (Sacramento)