Tea, Cake and Death

As some of you know, I (Kate) have recently had the pleasure and the honor of becoming involved with Death Cafe.  Specifically, the newly formed Portland Death Cafe.  And I couldn’t be happier about this.

It all started back when NPR ran this story.  I missed the airing of it, but caught the article on NPR’s website.  It was a story about an emerging global movement to bring the conversation about death out of the shadows, by offering what are called “Death Cafe’s.”  A Death Cafe isn’t a physical cafe (necessarily) but a gathering of people for the purpose of talking about death.  The events are free, and tea and cake (or other similar refreshments) are served, and also free.

Death goes down smooth with a nice serving of tea and cake.

Death goes down smooth with a nice serving of tea and cake.

I was instantly excited and immediately began trying to figure out how I could get involved.  I read every part of the Death Cafe website.  I was ready to start organizing one myself when I had the idea of searching online to make sure there wasn’t already one in my area.  The search turned up the PDX Death Cafe Facebook Page (linked to above), and I wasted no time in sending the admin of that page a message explaining my interest in Death Cafe and offering to help out in any way they needed.  The response I got was from the nicest woman you could imagine, and she was very welcoming and willing to let me join the team of co-hosts.  So I did, and after some planning, some meetings, some more planning, etc. , we hosted our first PDX Death Cafe on a sunny Sunday afternoon late last month.

It was everything I had hoped it would be and more.  It’s a funny thing, the response you get from people when you have them sit inside on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, talking about death.  It’s sort of… well, if you take all the things you imagine when you hear the words “Death Cafe”, and then take the opposites of those things, that’s what you get.  A positive experience was overwhelmingly reported on the surveys we collected at the end of the event (of which about 90% of participants filled out and turned in), with 100% of respondents saying they’d be extremely likely to recommend Death Cafe to their friends and family.  Here’s some of the words used to describe participants’ experiences, in cloud form:

Response to PDX Death Cafe, in cloud form

Response to PDX Death Cafe, in cloud form

Not too shabby for our first run, eh?

Anyway, I’m happy to say that I’ll be continuing my involvement with PDX Death Cafe, and we plan on having roughly monthly events.  I can’t wait to see where this movement is headed.  I’m very hopeful and optimistic that maybe, finally, a topic that deserves attention more than any other I can think of is starting to get it’s time to shine.

Also, as some of you know, I had the pleasure (and terror) yesterday of participating in a sort of on-air Death Cafe with a local radio station, KBOO, on a show called The Recovery Zone.  The terror part was my nervousness about speaking on the radio, compounded by our main host showing up with laryngitis and handing over her share of the conversation to me.  But aside from a bumpy start, it ended up being fine and even a little bit fun.  If you want, you can listen to it here.




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