What happens at a Death Cafe?
nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, it is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress (Dickens)
This week I travelled to Tiverton with a friend to the Pop-up Death Café in Tiverton. I am still processing the afternoon but having just written that down in a note to another friend, I realise my processing is at the stage of ‘I must create space to think about that …’. Writing always helps me to think and give space to my emotions.
My first observation is that I set this up with other people in mind and didn’t consider how I felt about it for myself. I left Bristol feeling apprehensive and curious. When I arrived we had tea and cake – always a good start. And then one of my dearest friends said hello. Nixie was co-facilitating the gathering which gave me a sense of safety and the knowledge I was held. I found the afternoon hugely beneficial and something I want to continue exploring and being with.
I joke that I’m ok about death, as long as it isn’t my own. Sitting for a couple of hours with a group of people from different places and times of life was wonderful. Everyone had a reason for being there which is no surprise. I had assumed that people would be drawn to the group because death had been present for someone they loved or through their own journey with health, illness and the ageing process.
We agreed that the afternoon was confidential for the group but what we learned we could share. My thoughts are:
- Death is a lot easier when you are among people who love you
- The journey becomes clearer when those you love know how you want your life to be celebrated
- Talking about death allowed light to be present
- Whatever our religious belief or disbelief, being together and choosing to acknowledge that death is part of life gives more space and power to love and living than it does to fear
On yoga retreat last year, we had talked about karma and death. It became apparent that my fears around death are not in the dying but in losing my family and friends and not being part of their lives. I have strong attachments that I want to keep. It reminds me of the monkey and the coconut, told here by Poelo Coelho:
I said to a friend: ‘It’s odd that proverb, An old monkey never puts his hand in the pot,’
‘Yes, but it has its own logic,’ he replied. ‘In India, hunters make a small hole in a coconut, put a banana inside and bury the whole thing. A monkey finds the coconut, puts his hand in the hole but can’t get it out because his closed hand is too big for the hole. Instead of letting go of the banana, the monkey stays there wrestling with the impossible and gets caught.’
Turns out that the banana I have been gripping tightly is Death not Life. I am bginning to realise that Death is in my pot of life and I can choose to hold onto the fear it creates and perhaps even become seduced by it. Or I can choose to acknowledge Death and let go of the fear. As a human, I love to plan and think about the future. That’s ok but staying in the present while I plan is essential. I am in a blessed position, my fears can be about the future, not about now.
My grandmother once said to me that I was afraid of Death because it wasn’t relevant at that moment. She was telling me to stay in the present. I often think of her. She died over ten years ago. I still expect to see her walking down the road or singing along to Dame Vera Lynn songs played on the organ by my granddad. To me my grandparents are still present, Death has not taken them from me.
So, that’s the beginning of my processing. Still some stuff to think about but it’s so much easier talking it through with others rather than sitting in isolation. As always, it brings me back to yoga. Yoga is relationship. When I am in relationship with trust, fear has no room. The benefits of daily practice are sharpened.
I hope that gives a taste of the experience, I acknowledge it is my own.
I would like to offer a space at Yanley Court for Nixie to join us for an evening to celebrate life and talk about death. Let me know if you’re interested. Obviously, there will be cake …
Blessings, Yvonne x