I’m not so sure about the Death Cafes. I do agree that there needs to be more done to talk about death and preparing for death, in our society, especially in our religious communities. I am just not sold on the whole death cafe movement. I guess I’m not as post-modern as I’d like to think I am.
I have, for quite some time now, embraced a broad view of “spirituality” and I think it helps clearing the ice when I am meeting a patient for the first time and they have assumptions about me as a religious/spiritual care practitioner and perceived intentions. It helps when I tell them that I value them and their spirituality, despite not belonging to or actively engaging in a formal community. I see my role as a facilitator for awareness and, hopefully, action as individuals take charge of their own spiritual journey and inventory. It’s funny how folks are comfortable talking about the end of their days and what they would like to see happen.
I had one woman who was very comfortable discussing that with me. She even planned the service and told her family that she had asked, (and that I had consented) to officiate. That was about 3 or 4 years before her passing!
Whatever the context, be it at a death cafe, or over Thanksgiving Dinner (well, maybe not that occasion), I do think there is value in having that discussion. The family of the woman I just mentioned, while saddened at her passing, had a peace about her passing because she had talked very openly about it and there was no chaos and angst regarding what to do when that time came. They could mourn and celebrate her life without the added burdens of pain, regret or conflicts that occurs when unfinished business is not taken care of.