Cake Normalizes Things: The Death Cafe Movement

Death Cafe Meeting in New York
Death Cafe Meeting in New York

Well, not blood sugar but it does help with death.

In 2011 John Underwood, a web designer in London, held an informal meeting in his basement to discuss death. His idea was in the European tradition of informal discussion of ideas and based on that of Swiss sociologist, Bernard Crettaz, who organized “café mortels” to encourage more open discussions of death.

Underwood says, “There’s a growing recognition that the way we’ve outsourced death to the medical profession and to funeral directors hasn’t done us any favors,” The Death Cafe is a place where people can discuss death, find meaning, ask profound questions, and reflect on what is important in life.

The basement idea, with its Halloween overtones, one hopes was about convenience. In any event, one thing led to another and death moved upstairs to become the Death Cafe with tea and cake. Why?

“The consumption of food is a life-sustaining process. Cake normalizes things.”

Underwood put up a website. The Death Cafe became a movement, not necessarily in that order. Small groups led by a volunteer professional are now meeting for discussions of death in cafes around the world. In July of 2013 there were 170 around the world. Since an article appeared in the New York Times this morning, there will probably be 17,000 by tomorrow morning.

The website has announcements of meetings and pictures of members with their tea and cake.

 

 

By Sharon Villines

Artist and Writer with too many interests living in Washington DC.