Life and Death: resources for learning more about the end of life

This is part of Cake’s collection of articles on important conversations. Create your free Cake profile today to discover, document, and share your end-of-life wishes.

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Looking for someone to talk to about the end of life but not sure where to start? Perhaps you're interested in exploring a specific idea or just curious about how different people's ideas about death can be. You don't have to look too far. Over the past few years, several social movements have sprung up to help people talk about death, usually over food or a hot cup of tea.

In medieval society, there was memento mori, the practice of reflecting on the transient nature of life through art. Today, there's Death over Dinner, Death Cafes, and Death Salons. Whether it's to decrease anxiety about death or remind us to appreciate life, these movements bring together people from all walks of life: young and old, spiritual and secular, people who are professionally acquainted with death and personally familiar with loss. They offer a space to reflect on everything from the philosophical to practical aspects of death.

Here's a run-down on some of the options out there:

1. Death Cafe
Who: anyone
Death Cafe started in England and is now around the world.
How it works: Find a Death Cafe event near you. People, often strangers, gather over cake and tea in coffee shops or community centers to talk about questions like, "What do you want your legacy to be? What do you want to do before you die?" Each event has a host and can also be held by an organization like a hospice or community group.

Jon Underwood, founder of Death Cafe: "There's a superstition that if you talk about death, you invite it closer. But the consumption of food is a life-sustaining process. Cake normalizes things."

2. Death over Dinner
Who: you and your guests
The idea sprang forth from a conversation between its founder and two doctors on a train.
How it works: Death over Dinner's website will walk you through how to host your own dinner where the conversation topic will be (surprise) Death. It's a private event, so you make a guest list and you can choose conversation-starters from a list of suggested articles or videos. Go through the process easily online, and you'll automatically get text for invitations and other ideas for your dinner. Here's one example of a dinner among tech entrepreneurs.

3. Death Salon
Who: anyone
Death Salons are bigger public events that bring people together--from medical historians to morticians--to talk about death through the lens of art, sociology, and anthropology.
How it works: They host annual events (the next one is in Houston in 2016), but check out the website for resources and a playlist.

4. Taking Control Initiative
Who: you and your guests
Started by a primary care doctor in Massachusetts, Taking Control is showing how group conversations about healthcare planning at the end-of-life can have ripple effects. What's really interesting is how they're getting retired doctors to be leaders for these conversations!
How it works: Invite friends or loved ones, take a look at the Taking Control video, and talk about your values.

Lastly, if you're looking for a way to break the ice around end-of-life conversations, check out Cake! Designed with the input of doctors, estate planners, and funeral experts, Cake guides you through what to think about and how to make this universal experience a celebration of your life and values. Learn what's important to you or your loved ones, and share your wishes.  Create a free Cake plan to get started.


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