Death. It’s a topic people typically prefer to avoid bringing up in conversation. However, at the Bucks County “Death Cafe,” it’s the only subject to be discussed.
“A Death Cafe is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes,” reads Death Cafe’s website. The objective of a Death Cafe is “to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives.” Gatherings often feature tea and cake or cookies.
Organized by Terry Skovronek, a 51-year-old “death” midwife from Doylestown, the Death Cafe’s first meeting was held at the Bucks County Free Library. She started the discussions, that she hopes to hold on a monthly basis, because she saw a void in the community of environments where people could openly talk about death and dying.
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“I couldn’t bear the silence any longer,” she told The Intelligencer. “How can we go through life in silence around this deeply important moment in our experience on this planet? I just had to start finding people to talk to about it.”
This gathering isn’t the first of its kind. Established in 2010, Death Cafe boasts over 1,400 locations in the United States and over 2,500 locations around the world.
British Web developer Jon Underwood read about Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz’s “cafe mortel” in The Independent in 2004 and decided to organize his own gathering based on Crettaz’s model. He hosted the first Death Cafe in 2011 at his home in East London.
“I believe our relationship with death plays a very significant part in explaining why we make the choices we make,” Underwood said. “I also believe that a better relationship with death has the potential to help us make better choices.”
Topics of discussion at Death Cafe gatherings range from mortality to personal experiences with death to recommendations for death-related books and television shows.
The next meeting is set for 7 p.m., December 10 in the group meeting room of the Doylestown branch of the Bucks County Free Library. All are invited to join.