Hampton Roads’ FIRST EVER ‘Death Over Dinner’ & what made it like no other. Virginia Beach
By Diane Murdock
Ten of us gathered for a family style dinner at my home in Virginia Beach on April 14th 2014. It was planned around the 7th Annual National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) on April 16th.
We were following in the footsteps of the work of a group of healthcare and wellness leaders who are committed to break the taboo regarding conversations about end of life. This group launched a website and project on August 24th 2013 called “Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death.” www.deathoverdinner.org
Here’s what set our dinner apart from others:
• There were nearly fifty years that separated the youngest one of us (26) and the oldest (73). That brought to the table many lifetimes of living.
• It was an evening all about living well, eating well, dying well, and the choices we can make in living our life to its end.
• Jim White, founder and owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios, joined us to talk about these many things.
• We recognized that dying is about living. Living to the end of our days. That we are living until we die. It’s about our vitality and what we love about life, and when time grows short, what is most important to us.
• We chose to watch together two videos before we ate rather than have these assigned as ‘homework’ before this evening:
Randy and Sandy’s Advance Care Plan, 6 episodes on Vimeo where puppets showed us the light hearted approach to much needed conversation. https://vimeo.com/channels/722879
Imagine, a NHDD Speak Up Video, an amazing video on advance care planning, gracefully explaining why it matters for All of us.
What DID we talk about?
We began our meal with a toast to each other and to those who we carry in our hearts and are no longer with us.
Some of us had never experienced a serious illness of a loved one or themselves. Others had had a heart attach and were cancer survivors.
We talked about death and how we want to be remembered. How to deal creatively with death and making our life speak in a meaningful way. We acknowledged it was easier to talk about when we are gone and what we want left behind and remembered for than to talk about how we want to die.
We talked about the fear of the unknown and nonexistence. We knew this to be a topic for another time.
We shared our stories of someone, a loved one who died, a parent, a brother, a grandparent — those young, who died too early and those who reached a ripe old age before they passed. One shared about a son who died at 16. A story was told about a car crash that could have been catastrophic but they walked away.
THE SIMPLE TRUTH ABOUT OUR EVENING?
There’s nothing like the present and living each moment.
That we should be prepared & have a plan.
That dying we can on our own terms.
Here’s what emails followed our evening:
The evening was magical. Everyone opened up to share their experiences while the others sat quietly and absorbed the words.
We walked away feeling more at ease about discussing death. The food was so healthy, comforting and tasty.
It was amazing…I already have 2 couples interested in the next one!!
(On a lighter note) I adored the idea of an off switch.
I am thankful for this wonderful dinner to die for, dying and dining, or dying to eat night… “Which ever may apply ,” 🙂 I think the time is right for everyone to share their thoughts of life’s last breath and how they prefer to deal with it.
And for me, the hostess: I’ve been going over and over our evening. I wasn’t clear what would unfold. But what was apparent, was that all of us were willing to be part of creating this evening together. We simply let it happen. I continue to feel empowered …and comforted and released.