December 11th was a cold Winter night. Coming throw icy gates and down a path surrounded by snow, twelve people entered West Laurel Hill Cemetery en route towards the Bringhurst Funeral Home togather in the atrium.
As with most gatherings at the funeral home, the topic at hand was death; however, this was not your normal death conversation. There was a calm in the air. There were no tears, eulogies, or final goodbyes. Instead, there was coffee, tea, cookies, and lively conversation, including laughter. This was the first Main Line Death Café, hosted by Rachel Zeldin of Funerals360 (formerlly I’m Sorry to Hear.com) and Simcha Raphael of the DA’AT Institute as part of the Death Café Philadelphia initiative.
Following an introduction of the Death Café history, objectives, and principles, the group introduced themselves and dove straight into engaging discussion over the next hour. For nearly this whole group, it was their first time hearing of or attending a Death Café. Peaked by curiosity after reading an article in the local paper or receiving and email from the funeral home itself, participants came with open ears and hearts to share experiences and thoughts with one another, pushing each other to think critically of one’s own opinion on end-of-life matters and philosophy.
The topics of conversation ranged from family conflict regarding the proper method of final disposition, to one’s thoughts on the afterlife, and sharing of personal experiences relating to the passing of a loved one. It wasn’t long before we lost track of time and we had to pull the group back together to discuss final thoughts and debrief on the evening’s conversations.
Surveys of the event revealed an enthusiastic reaction to the event, calling it “illuminating, challenging, thoughtful, energetic, informative, educational, revealing, and fun!” As with previous Death Cafés, what participants seem to enjoy the most are the participants themselves, their openness to have meaningful conversations around death and accept one another’s alternate views, especially since participants came from many different cultural and spiritual backgrounds.
We are honored to have such a diverse set of individuals speak so openly about a once taboo topic and receive positive feedback about the event. Another Death Café Philadelphia will be held in January in Center City Philadelphia. For more information on this event and to stay connected with past participants, be sure to join our Meetup Group.