Compassionate, informed advice about healthcare decision making

published by Hank Dunn - June 19th, 2013
The Death Cafe

Okay. You say, “Only a hospice worker would find the idea of a ‘death cafe’ exciting.”

These events are happening around the world. Yes, people sit down, have a cup of tea, coffee or adult beverage and talk about death and dying. If you are interested check out the website “Death Cafe.” Of course they are on Facebook and Twitter @deathcafe.

Let us deprive death of its strangeness

This all reminds me of Montaigne’s words from over four centuries ago.

“To begin depriving death of its greatest advantage over us, let us adopt a way clean contrary to that common one; let us deprive death of its strangeness; let us frequent it, let us get used to it; let us have nothing more often in mind than death. At every instant let us evoke it in our imagination under all its aspects….To practice death is to practice freedom. A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave. Knowing how to die gives us freedom from subjection and constraint. Life has no evil for him who has thoroughly understood that loss of life is not an evil.”

Michel  de Montaigne,  c. 1580-1595

A reluctance to talk about death and dying

What I find curious is that Montaigne even had to make this statement. His contemporaries had to be surrounded by death all the time with the lethality of infectious diseases and high rates of infant mortality and high rates of mothers dying in childbirth. Yet, he must have observed a reluctance to talk about death and dying.

Now we hide death in hospitals and nursing homes and fortunately infant and childbirth deaths are rare. I can see why it is so easy to avoid death today. But even in the 16th century talk about death could be avoided.

Lift a cup to death and dying.

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