It seems that Death Cafe has spawned a little brother, birthplace Portland Oregon, dob sometime earlier this summer. It’s name is Death Over Dinner.
The aims of Death Over Dinner are pretty much the same as those of Death Cafe, namely, to get folk together to talk about you-know-what. It’s the initiative of Michael Hebb, who works at the University of Washington. The rationale for dinnertime deathchat? In Hebb’s words: “The dinner table is the most forgiving place for difficult conversation. The ritual of breaking bread creates warmth and connection, and puts us in touch with our humanity. It offers an environment that is more suitable than the usual places we discuss end of life.”
It’s a good formula. Death Cafe has already taught us that the model works. I must own up here to my own blindness to Death Cafe — I didn’t think it would. How wrong, sometimes, can we be.
The Death Over Dinner website is excellent. It is simple, instantly understandable and, above all, empowering. You can rapidly plan your own dinner party online. It is suggested that you give your guests, and yourself, a bit of homework in advance. You choose that from a bunch of truly excellent resources. The system generates an invitation to your guests together with tips about how you might facilitate the discussion. When it’s over, you can share your experience with the website which, usefully, pools them with others.
The website is highly functional. It’s a lovely piece of work. Top marks go to the collection of resources, written, audio and visual.
There are downsides. It is very US-centric. I very much didn’t like: “We have gathered dozens of esteemed medical and wellness leaders to create an uplifting interactive adventure” because like most Brits I don’t like being told what’s good for me by leaders of any sort. These initiatives work best if they’re bottom- up — like Death Cafe.
Given Death Cafe’s viral spread around the world, there’s probably a lot to be said for the two initiatives working together.
You can have a dummy run on the website — fill out the form and see what you think of the contents of the email you get back moments later.
There is much to commend this enterprise. Find the website here.