Death Cafe in the Bay

21 June 2017, Wardini Bookshop, Havelock North

If you haven’t heard of a Death Cafe you could be mistaken in thinking it’s some kind of morbidly themed eatery, but even though there was an abundance of tea and cake, last night’s event was not that sort of cafe and there wasn’t a coffin-shaped panini in sight.

Packed into the toasty confines of Wardini Books, we were furnished with an assortment of tea and treats, then the fun began. For the uninitiated, our lovely hosts Verona Nicholson and Lynda Corner informed us that in 2010 Jon Underwood developed the idea of a Death Cafe after reading about the works of Bernard Crettaz, a Swiss sociologist and anthropologist, who organised the very first ‘Cafe Mortel’ in 2004, with the aim of breaking the “tyrannical secrecy” surrounding the topic of death. Since then the Death Cafe movement has spread all over the world and now it has landed in Havelock North.

There are very few things I find more interesting than nosing into other people’s lives and there’s scarcely anything I enjoy doing more than talking about myself, so when we were invited to each talk about why we were there and our feelings and experiences about death, I knew I was in for an enjoyable evening.

The Death Cafe is confidential so I won’t go into the specifics of what was said by others, but for my part I was able to openly discuss my mother’s death and the dark sense of humour our family uses to deal with it, all without fear of judgement or scorn, because that is what the Death Cafe is all about, talking about death, openly and honestly. What it is not is a grief counselling group. However, listening to the poignant stories of love and loss I still felt consoled by the understanding shown by everyone to each other; a true atmosphere of respect and friendship. It was beautiful and interesting in equal measure.

Death Cafe in the Bay will return, by popular demand, next month where they will delve deeper into death and all its many areas of intrigue. I shall be there, tea in hand, unless of course the reaper has other ideas.

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