These few hours of pure honesty…

My mother, Enee, and I hosted a Death Dinner at the beginning of this year at her studio in St. Petersburg, Florida. As it was during my winter break from college in Massachusetts, most of the guests were my mother’s colleagues or family friends. Still, they were handpicked and chosen for their potential adaptability to this unique assemblage. It turns out that everyone who attended had a breathtaking story to tell that conveyed their strength as survivors and gratitude for deceased loved ones.

The struggle, or the “deathing” process, was the primary focus of much of the dinner conversation. One guest brought a new friend to us, someone who had acted as the death doula to her deceased partner. The idea of a death doula was new and intriguing to me, as I had been working with birth doulas at the time. Another guest shared comical stories about caretaking for her ill mother, who has since passed. Intermingled between Paul Williams excerpts and May Sarton quotes, grief also became an inevitable topic. Bellies warm with soup and wine, we shared grieving strategies, from journal entries to books and music that have helped us through the illnesses and passing of loved ones.

These few hours of pure honesty and earnest interest were invaluable to my mom and I. The Death Over Dinner template gave us structure that allowed a perfect amount of creativity for us as hosts to contribute our own flavor to the meal. Moreover, it initiated me into a group of wise mentors willing to talk about the tough stuff.

Since the dinner, my mother has opened up her studio as a collective healing space for those looking for refuge through yoga, natural medicine, and music. Following the dinner, I attended Death Café Boston with complete strangers and presented at the Tufts University annual Anthropology symposium about ways “the conversation” is being avoided. Since graduating, I enrolled in an MFA program in the Netherlands that will allow me to focus on inspiring necessary conversations about illness, health care, and death through design. I am so grateful to the Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death campaign, and I speak for my mother when I say that it has changed our lives, and the lives of our dear friends. It has given us a gift, a joint passion.


September 13th, 2014