It’s safe to say that death and Dundee cake are an odd partnership.
With the burgeoning popularity of Death Cafes around the UK, however, attitudes towards marrying the two are rapidly changing.
Bound by coffee, cake and curiosity, a Death Cafe’s patrons are encouraged to discuss death in a non-morbid manner, which raises awareness and helps folk “make the most of their (finite) lives”.
The premise is the brainchild of Jon Underwood, a 41-year-old from Hackney in East London, who, after reading about the work of Bernard Crettaz, decided to use a similar model for the Death Cafe.
The first gathering – consisting of six people – was held in Jon’s basement back in 2011, but its popularity has soared recently, with almost 900 events organised since its humble beginnings.
According to Jon, western society has lost control of one of the most significant events its people will ever face, with discussions about death typically left to doctors, nurses, priests or undertakers.
As a result, Jon promotes lively conversations about whether you’d prefer to be buried or cremated, where you’d like to be when you die, or what song you’d like played at your funeral.
Traditionally, of course, this candid approach to talking about death is replaced with uncomfortable connotations of morbidity and finality that many of us simply aren’t ready to deal with.
Britons Disinclined To Discuss Death
Indeed, research has shown that 83 per cent of the British public are uncomfortable discussing death and dying, while only 29 per cent of people have made someone else aware of their funeral wishes.
Interestingly, the majority of folk have never thought about their digital legacy, although 11 per cent of people would like a loved one to update their social media account on their behalf after they die.
For older people especially, facing up to their own mortality is a problem, with figures suggesting some think death is “too far off” – but experts warn many are leaving it “too late” to make arrangements.
Around 23 per cent of folk over the age of 75 have yet to discuss their wishes – either by making a will to make their requests known, taking out a funeral plan to protect loved ones, or even sitting down to discuss it with their family – the British Social Attitudes Survey found.
In order to revolutionise this overwhelming aversion to death discourse then, Jon Underwood believes the growth of the Death Cafe movement is a positive step in the right direction.
Says Jon: “Death is a very rich subject, and talking about it is important and helpful, but we don’t make time to do it. Death Cafes are safe places, dedicated to increase our awareness of death with a view to helping us make the most of our (finite) lives.”
Wise words, Jon. Wise words, indeed.