Theresa Hamilton moderates the discussion at this week’s death café. (Jake Sherman/Revelstoke Review)

VIDEO: Death Café puts mortality front and centre

Death midwife Theresa Hamilton says participants come away with the big questions left unanswered, but more appreciative of life than ever before

It’s an average Monday night in Revelstoke. Seated in a circle at Dose Café, 12 complete strangers are sharing conversation. The topic is death.

Tonight the oldest person here is over seventy. The youngest is in their teens.

There are atheists present. Some Christians. A Jew. Tears are shed. People hug. We’re at a Death Café.

Some of the topics being discussed tonight are: what makes a good death? What is it like to die? How would one like to die? What is the proper way to act in a cemetery? And how can one act as a role model for others when experiencing grief.

Surprisingly, more than anything else, though the subject matter is heavy, the participants laugh. Is death funny?

Not at all, says Theresa Hamilton, a death midwife who organizes the Death Café locally at Dose on the last Monday of every month, but far more than having any of their questions answered about their own mortality, the afterlife or their own family members deaths, participants, Hamilton says, leave appreciating the experience of life.

“I don’t think people’s views of death necessarily change after attending a Death Café,” says Hamilton before the event. “But definitely their views on life. They do.”

Over the course of the evening Hamilton moderates the discussion, but does not lead.

The flow is organic, and all part of what she is trained to do.

People share their own experiences. They talk about their travels. About family members they’ve lost. The way those family members died. How they cope. What to say to someone who has experienced a loss.

“I would like a painful death over an embarrassing one,” says one of the participants, provoking laughter.

But a Death Café is not unique to our little town at all.

The first one was held in London, England, in 2011, and according to the non-profit society who started the movement’s website, to date, there have been 5736 Death Café’s, held in 52 countries, in as distant locales as Thailand and Chile.

Locally, the first Death Café was held at Sangha Bean last year and organized by former owner Krista Manuel, who is also trained in death midwifery.

After learning about the concept and approach to dealing with death in school, she decided she would bring a Death Café to Revelstoke. Owning a café herself, she figured she had the perfect location.

Related: Krista Manuel to host Revelstoke’s first Death Café

Manuel says it’s never the same. That it often provokes laughter. And flows according to who is in the room.

“Laughing comes with death,” she says. “It’s a process of life. There has to be the yin and the yang. Even when its dark, there is a lightness or a humour that somehow impacts it.”

Manuel also says there will always be people who will be resentful of having these kinds of conversations openly, but that the more prominent these kinds of conversations become on a societal level, the more opportunity there will be for people to open up to them.

“It’s a ripple effect in the community,” she says.

Hamilton studied death midwifery with Manuel and was a semester behind her. Both are involved with Revelstoke Hospice, and interested in trying to remove some of the taboo that we as a society have attached to death and dying.

“We have these great big why’s, and we try to break them down at a Death Café,” says Hamilton.

“It’s just about our stories and life experiences. When you end up talking about death or dying, you’re just really talking about how people lived. And then you’re just talking about people. Essentially it’s just storytelling.”

After the event, having moved and been moved, Hamilton is filled with humility. A participant tells her how grateful he was for the experience.

“I am but a spoke in the wheel,” she responds.

Hamilton holds Death Cafés on the last Monday of every month at Dose Café.


@Jnsherman
jake.sherman@revelstokereview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Snowfall warning for Revelstoke

Up to 25 cm expected

Considerable avalanche danger near Revelstoke today

The mountains have received more than 40 cm this week

Highway 1 avalanche closure times decreasing around Revelstoke

According to the province, Highway 1 closures can cost $500,000 per hour

Bird populations significantly declining around Revelstoke says Parks Canada

Out of the mountain national parks, bird populations near Revelstoke are in the worst shape

Rob Morrison sworn in as Kootenay-Columbia MP

Parliament set to reconvene on Thursday with election of House Speaker, Throne Speech

Kelowna Salvation Army sees increase in toy, cash donations

The Tiny Tim Charity Toy Breakfast started its 19th year Thursday morning

B.C. NDP touts the end of MSP premiums

Horgan, James held news conference to reiterate that people will get their last bill this month

Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen directors to receive pay increase

Increase of 11.9 per cent to offset changes to taxation for elected officials

Salmon Arm, Kelowna among best places to work in B.C.

Categories reflecting quality of life influence ranking

North Okanagan house fire likely started in kitchen

Nobody home at time except family pet who died after being rescued by firefighter

Illicit drug deaths down, but B.C. coroner says thousands still overdose

Chief coroner Life Lapointe says province’s drug supply remains unpredictable

PHOTOS: Clean-up at Penticton’s Esplanade Park extensive

It took the clean-up crew seven hours on Monday and work is still ongoing

Food bank shelves stocked thanks to North Okanagan realtors

Realtors Food Drive collects 30,000lbs and counting

Trustees ask for more help after tearful meeting on B.C. school’s ‘toxic’ stench

Enforcement has ‘no teeth,’ school trustee says, while kids become sick

Most Read