Participation in a lively conversations on our inevitable demise
Thirty people, old and young; some with pen and paper, others simply holding a cup of tea; the subtle background sounds of a coffee machine accompanying the whispers of scholarly exchanges; all this in what looks like half arts and crafts studio and half hippie café. This was the perfect setup for a sometimes stimulating, sometimes sad, but entirely civilized and unexpectedly humorous conversation about death.
The workshop, entitled “A Deadly Taboo” took place Monday, Jan. 26, at the café Le Milieu. It was part of the University of the Streets Café event, a Concordia community initiative organized each semester on a weekly basis and touching on numerous topics, hosted in various public spaces around the city.
The main guest of the night was Kit Racette, a supporter of the international Death Café movement (of which Montreal has a franchise), writer, and member of the Tel-Aide suicide hotline. The Death Café movement aims to provide a peaceful and calm social setting for death-based discussions, though it does not seek to be macabre, and avowedly denies itself as grief counselling. The conversation was moderated by life coach Minda Bernstein.
Death was discussed by the array of people showing up for this semester’s second weekly event in various ways: sometimes very rationally, often emotionally, occasionally spiritually and politically. For a moment, the café became an unusual place where strangers shared stories, experiences and thoughts about things that you may rarely speak of even with close friends. The format was centered on this idea of sharing and discussing with others what death may be really about, either when it is our own demise or of others, and why we should try to be more comfortable with it.
As you may expect when dealing with such a delicate topic, awkwardness, sadness and strangeness sometimes crawled into the conversation. Still, this kind of sentiment is what is often lacking in our daily, mundane conversations consumed by the Habs’ last game or clever observations about the weather.
As taboo as it may be for some, death demands to be discussed because in the end, as Racette put it, “We’re all here, between birth and death.”
For more information about University of the Streets Café’s weekly talks, visit the concordia.ca/univcafe. To learn more about the Death Café movement or Kit Racette and her work, visit kitracette.com.