The Birth of a Death Cafe


Yesterday, was the birth of “Cake and Death.”  A death cafe “like” event aimed at getting people to talk about death and dying.  The labor lasted a few months, but was virtually pain free.  The actual delivery, went fairly smoothly… with just a few minor hiccups.

The day looked promising as the sun was shining brightly and the big, white, fluffy clouds floated by in a bright blue sky. “What a great day to talk about death,” I thought to myself!

The “outside” venue, that Morris and Jacques and I had agreed on, had kept me up at night, over the past several weeks, but today, things were looking pretty good. I was thinking, “This is perfect… nothing can go wrong now, we have the weather on our side.”

We arrived at Morris and Jacques to find several couples still sitting out on the back deck enjoying a late lunch, wine and the weather. “Hmmm? I though the back garden was all ours?” Okay, no worries, we’ll work around them. Counting and recounting chairs while guessing at how many people would actually show up, was the task at hand right now. “Move this table here and that table there.” “We can sit up here and if more people join they can sit over there.” “Posters here, handouts there.”  It was bit of a logistical nightmare, but by 3:45 we had it done and dusted. *whew*

The labor pains were coming closer together now, (or is that the beginning of a panic attack?) and I was almost ready to give birth.

The look on Antonia’s face was a bit odd as she said, “Melissa, do you hear the music?” It took me a second to connect her words with the sound I was hearing. A loud, vibrating twang. “Wait, I know that sound,” I thought. “Isn’t that the noise made by an electric guitar?  …but wait, this is a Death Cafe, why is there an electric guitar twanging?”

Who knew the restaurant right next door, also had a back garden and was also hosting a Brighton Fringe event today, that event included electric guitars and microphones! “One, two… one, two, three, four.”

“No… no please tell me this isn’t happening.” I had already come to terms with the fact that people attending my event would have to speak a bit louder than normal to be heard above the crowd gathering in the garden next door.  That in and of itself is not a great start! Sharing your very personal feelings about death and dying, while having to project and maintain an “OUTDOOR VOICE ” is not the best way to kick things off! However, even I, with my “Hear Me Roar,” American voice, could not compete with Brighton’s next Jimi Hendrix!

Just as I began to freak out, Rachel, the owner of M&J, came out and said, “Do you want to move inside? It’s empty now.”  “OMG! yes please!”

So with less than 15 minutes to move everything inside (including some guests who had arrived early and were already sitting and enjoying their cake and coffee) we went into action!

I am happy to say with the help of “my friends,” we were all moved in and ready to begin by just after 4:00.   We waited for the last few guests to arrive and get settled and at about 4:15 “Cake and Death” was born.

I believe it was a huge success! Everyone seemed content that they had received what they came for.  There was lots of sharing and relevant discussions around death and dying; thoughts and fears. There was bonding and new friendships made.  Everyone seemed quite pleased as they were leaving and I felt like a new mother, beaming ear to ear.

It was done and over and I could finally exhale.

Several people asked if there would be more events… “Hmmmm?” I thought.

“Sure.  Yes…  definitely,”  I could do that again.


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