A Garment You MIGHT Wish to Be Caught Dead In

Guest blogger Joanna Shears caught my attention because she writes about death in an even jauntier tone than I. In her Twitter profile @winding_blog, she styles herself as a “promoter of death positivity,” and in her blog she largely focuses on creative funeral planning. This September 26, 2014 post of hers is about designer shrouds and how we ourselves can be the designers!

The Winding Sheet

As I’m always banging on about the importance of preparing for your own funeral in advance I thought it was time for me to shut up, put my money where my mouth is and get on with it. Having thought long and hard about what kind of disposal and ceremony I want I have decided on an eco woodland burial (hopefully in the same woodland as my nan). I’m super passionate about funerals that give something back to the earth instead of taking from it. I don’t want to be buried in a big wooden lead-lined coffin and if anyone even thinks about embalming me I’m coming back to haunt you!

With this in mind I have decided to forego a coffin completely and be laid to rest in a shroud (aka winding sheet). These days shrouds can come in all different designs and shapes and materials but basically a…

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“Death Cafe”–Not Exactly a Last Supper

Before I knew what a “death cafe” referred to, I pictured a collection of skulls clacking away as they helped themselves to a buffet, with soft foods and liquids being the most favored by far. “Death cafe?” How could food and death be juxtapositioned? One of the leading graphics in an article that  unveiled the meaning of this phrase showed elegant blue and white dishware obediently standing in a holder. A skull took up the center of each plate, hogging all the blue, leaving the white to fill in the periphery. Written on the rim was “Bone appetit.” See that? I’m not the only one who thinks like I do.

“Death cafes” are part of a movement to break cultural taboos against openly discussing such topics as how we want to be remembered, how to bring up the subject of dying with loved ones and how we want our funerals to be conducted. The food part, making this subject a bit easier to swallow, usually consists of beverages and snacks.The very first death cafes began in 2004 and really took off in 2011. The organizers say that by now approximately one thousand people have attended them in countries such as England, Australia, the United States, and Italy.

My husband Steve and I, both of us curiosity seekers, went to a death cafe in someone’s home  the middle of this month. We helped ourselves to some snacks–the best one was guava paste and cheese spread on crackers–and waited our turn to answer the question of why we  were there. Many people said they were open to discussing it because they had lost a loved one at a tender age, or they themselves were young when someone very close to them had died. My answer was that I wanted to see what people were saying about this topic and that I thought I might get ideas for my blog posts. (See?)

We then had to complete the phrase, “Death is……” Naturally I said, “Death is at the edge.” I say naturally because my book title is “Encountering the Edge: What People Told Me Before They Died” (Pen-L Publishing) Later when we broke into smaller groups, I said that when I contemplate this edge, it throws life, which is on the other side of that edge, into sharper relief.

I figured that I would have to forgo retrieving any humorous gems from this particular event, but luckily someone said, “Oh, I thought this event was called a “Death Cave.” “Death Cave?” Oh, is that where thoughts on death end up after we chew the fat? When Steve and I laughed about that on the way home, he said “that sounds like the Flintstones were going to host the event.” It’s about time. I never have ever heard Fred and Wilma  address the issue, have you?

For related article, see https://offbeatcompassion.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/death-cafes-home-of-the-death-deniers/