Talk less about how to die than how to live – meetings more about laughter than tears

The Swiss love to talk about all manner of things including dying and death. And what better place than a café.  Bernard Crettaz’s café meetings in 2004 didn’t spread much beyond Switzerland and France until Jon Underwood in east London cottoned on to the idea and launched the Death Café website.  It has since morphed into a worldwide program because Jon was able to visualise the potential a safe, friendly place could offer.

Since that first café held by Jon in September 2011 thousands of death cafes have been hosted by people all over the world where people eat cake, drink tea and discuss death. Sadly Jon Underwood suddenly died on June 27 at the age of 44.  The cause was a brain hemorrhage from acute promyelocytic leukemia. It was sudden because the leukemia had not been diagnosed.

Mary Hui, writes (The founder of Death Café has died but his movement to accept our inevitable end will live on, Washington Post, 10.07.2017) “The abruptness of his death came as a huge shock, especially to his closest family. But Underwood’s philosophy of life and death is also a strange source of comfort at this devastating time, said his sister Jools Barsky.”

“Jon was uniquely and unusually aware that life is short and appreciated his life fully, reflecting on this through daily practice,” wrote Donna Molloy, Underwood’s widow.

“He lived every day reflecting very consciously; on the fact that none of us know how long we have …. He would often say ‘well Jools’ you never know, you could be dead tomorrow!”

The core principles of Death Café will continue said Barsky: “… allowing people to talk about death in a safe space with no agenda, alongside tea and food [and] delicious cake.”  Read the full story at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/07/10/the-founder-of-death-cafe-has-died-but-his-movement-to-accept-the-inevitable-end-of-life-will-live-on/?utm_term=.90ca9d4c1c2f

“He came to learn that the meetings were more about laughter than tears. People often talked less about how to die than how to live,” writes Iliana Magra, (Jon Underwood, Founder of Death Cafe Movement, Dies at 44, New York Times, July 11, 2017)

These were not grief support groups or end-of-life planning sessions, but rather casual forums for people who wanted to bat around philosophical thoughts. What is death like? Why do we fear it? How do our views of death inform the way we live?

“You know you have a certain time left, and then the question is, What is important for me to do in that time?” Mr. Underwood said in a BBC interview in 2014. “That’s different for everyone, so talking about death, for me at least, is the ultimate prioritisation exercise.”    This report can be found at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/11/international-home/jon-underwood-dead-death-cafe-movement.html

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