Death Café is a lively idea

Tea? Cake? Death?

Tea? Cake? Death?

All three will be on the menu next Sunday in Red Deer, though the third item is only to be discussed, not indulged in.

The occasion is Red Deer’s second Death Café, an event that welcomes people of any age to come and talk in small group settings about all things death — from past experiences to perspectives on one’s own mortality and how to ready for the occurrence that will come some day, whether we like it or not.

Not meant to be morbid or sombre affairs, Death Cafés are forums for people to bat around philosophical musings in an informal, confidential setting. The concept emerged in Switzerland a decade ago, and has since spread around the globe.

For Jean Bota, the idea of talking about death long before one may expect to encounter it is a recent revelation.

As a child, she was not allowed to attend her grandfather’s funeral because her parents did not want her or her siblings exposed to death.

When her husband passed away suddenly in 2001, though, Bota realized she could not avoid the subject anymore.

“It’s knocking on the window: ‘Hello, I do want to come in and I want to have a little chat with you,’” said Bota, 59.

She got involved with hospices and people dealing with grief, but after hearing about death cafés, realized a benefit to talking about death before it happens.

The forums, she said, end up being as much about living as they are about dying.

Some of the sample lead in questions for Death Café ask if one would write their own eulogy or plan their own funeral and whether death is merely sad and horrible, or whether there can be positive elements to the experience. Bota said in our society people are wary of speaking of death for fear it brings the certainty closer, but in some other cultures dying can be embraced.

“It’s been a taboo for too long and I think we have to swing it around,” said Bota.

The issue of euthanasia, for one, has been debated federally, albeit reluctantly, in recent years. The Supreme Court announced earlier this year that it would hear an appeal from B.C. to do with assisted suicide.

Alberta Health Services encouraged citizens to talk about end-of-life care and the associated crucial decisions through an online forum earlier this month.

For her part, Bota said she will write her own eulogy and will ask her loved ones to remember her with laughter, not tears, when she goes.

Red Deer’s Death Café will take place from 2-5 p.m. on May 4. All are welcome and it is free to attend.

Space at the event is limited to 24 participants; RSVPs are requested.

For more information, or to RSVP contact Bota at

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