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Coffee, cake and death: Death Cafe shines light on end-of-life

'We really just want to leave everyone with a desire; the desire is to live life more fully,' says Death Cafe organizer Jodi Williams

In times when it seems like everyone talks about their differences, the one thing we all have in common is death. 

What can sometimes seem like a morbid topic, death carries a stigma deeply rooted in our society. A workshop called Death Cafe is trying to change this by shining a little light on an otherwise dark concept. 

Monigram Coffee Roasters in Cambridge will host end-of-life doula Jodi Williams every Tuesday starting July 12 where participants are invited to discuss the inevitable finale to all of our stories. 

“I feel like in society there's not a whole lot of conversations and then when it happens, whether to a close friend or a loved one, people don't know how to deal with it properly,” said Williams.

Usually meeting in a cafe or a restaurant, Death Cafe is meant to be a judgment free space to heal and talk about death. 

Originally starting in the UK in 2011 by the late creator Jon Underwood, Death Cafe has spread across the world into over 81 countries. 

Underwood took the idea from Bernard Crettaz, a Swiss sociologist whose philosophy is that talking about death will lead to more authenticity and more healing. 

Now, Williams wants to bring her experiences and what she knows to help the community learn that death shouldn’t be scary and secret, but something we prepare for. 

“We need to end the stigma so people can talk about it and then things can happen easier,” said Williams. “When it comes to that time, you want to know what to expect in a way. We plan for so many things, why not this?”

Death Cafe is a non-profit with no political or religious affiliation, it is not meant to further anyone's careers or sell people anything. Their main goal is to start a conversation. 

“We really just want to leave everyone with a desire; the desire is to live life more fully and when you leave to understand that, yeah, life is a finite existence, it's all going to happen to everybody,” Williams said.

She wants people to stop being afraid to talk about death and treat it as a normal step in the life process. 

“It’s like the old joke, talking about sex. Does it get you pregnant? No. Just like talking about death doesn't mean you're going to die. You can talk about it, it doesn't mean you're going to get sick tomorrow,” Williams said.

The last two years have been rough, Williams said. The pandemic put a spotlight on the lack of services being offered and some support systems that are in decline. It left some people feeling alone and helpless.

She thinks these workshops are important to our society and opening the doors to these types of conversations, while tough, are needed to help people transition either in their final days or after the loss of a loved one. 

“It's really vital at this point. We see so many people now, especially in the last two years, how things have changed and the decline of just support in areas. We have people who are dying alone or are just lonely. It just doesn’t seem like there's a lot of help out there, families don't know what to say, they're uncomfortable,” Williams said. 

The Death Cafe will be held at Monigram Coffee Roasters in Cambridge starting on Tuesday, July 12, at 2 p.m.

Anyone who wants to join is asked to simply show up, enjoy a cup of coffee or tea and talk about death.

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Joe McGinty

About the Author: Joe McGinty

Joe McGinty is a multimedia journalist who covers local news in the Cambridge area. He is a graduate of Conestoga College and began his career as a freelance journalist at CambridgeToday before joining full time.
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