The Good Funeral Awards

Death Café – and the longing for ‘real’ conversation

14 August, 2018


LIMITLESS distraction is available to us in the era of screens, so how do we escape it?

Where can we find authentic conversation? The proper exchange of ideas? How can we discover human truths about ourselves?

The reason I got involved with the funeral trade is that people who talk on the subject of death make very compelling speakers.

The reason I’ve decided to relaunch the Ideal Death Show in 2018 is because I was so baffled the death of Jon Underwood.

Jon was the chief populariser of the death café movement, before he died suddenly aged 44 last year.

When someone dies like that, their example can motivate the living to continue their work.

Normally death cafés take place in church halls or function rooms: we put on our cafés in a yurt.

There’s something intimate and gentle about a yurt (see the photo above).

My experience of being involved is that when you initiate a group conversation about death, the mood becomes more solemn and intense.

People reveal things that surprise you. The normal filters which we use to judge each other are swept away. I find out things about others I could never have guessed.

The setting and the subject matter make people more articulate, respectful and attentive.

Laughter tends to be sharper in this context.

There are some heavy silences. And there is a sense of how powerless we all are when facing terminal diseases and when we lose relatives and friends.

When it’s over, you may find yourself sighing. It can be a profound and draining experience, but you’ve had a ‘real’ conversation.

As Kevin Toolis pointed out in his book My Father’s Wake, ‘if you never know death then you never know life.’

We come away from these conversations, not diminished, but enriched.

If you’d like to be part of this year’s Ideal Death Show on Saturday 15 September at the Highcliff Hotel in Bournemouth, you can buy a ticket here.