Debbie & Alberta’s North East London (Virtual) Death Café
Following a couple of in person, around a table Death Cafes, it felt a little odd to be back in the small boxes and slightly strange evening lighting of a zoom gathering. But the great thing about virtual gatherings is that they allow distance to shrink and we were delighted to welcome attendees from Northern Ireland and Bucharest as well as boroughs across London with a focus on Haringey, Hackney and Waltham Forest. As always, the conversations were wide-ranging, thoughtful and warm. It struck me too, how kindness is often an underlying thread of the cafes, and the conversations. A kindness in giving and sharing openly and honestly and too a kindness of intention – wanting to make the world a more comfortable and caring place. In contrast, there was reference to Boris Johnson’s declaration that the Covid pandemic would mean that there would be people who lost loved ones. The distancing of death – this would be something that other people experience. The death of the other, not of our own. Yet we are all mortal, we will all die. Does that distancing contribute to a fear of death? The thinking that death is something that happens to other people, or other families. This tied in with an attendee’s observation that there can be a loneliness in being within the experience of death. The lack of solidarity can mean that when it does happen it can feel that only you are experiencing this. The pain of grief becomes unique and lonely. There is a comfort in knowing that you are not alone, that this is something that we all experience. Death is a time for solidarity. Which takes me back full circle to the value of sharing and talking. The acceptance and recognition of mortality can add value to life too. The concepts of holding conversations with self on our death bed was raised – a way of deciphering direction when struggling with big decisions. This life is finite. What really is important? The idea of legacy and footprint was also discussed. What do we want to leave behind? What can we leave behind if we are not an artist or a composer or a great of some kind? This took us back to kindness. It was agreed we all leave behind what we have given to others. Those small interactions with strangers even, those small acts of kindness. The stone thrown into the water and the outward ripples.