“Why do you want to talk about that?” she asked, scrunching up her nose.
With the good news that Thanatology Café is coming to the S.A.R.G. — the Schenectady, Albany, Rensselaer, Greene counties area — we’ve started negotiating for venues where the local groups can meet for the inaugural program in mid-March.
Visiting a local library, we received the best possible confirmation Why? Thanatology Café is so appropriate at this time in our culture.
While chatting with one of the librarians in a local library that would be suitable for a Thanatology Café program, one of the librarians turned to us and asked, “Why do you want to talk about that?!?”, scrunching up her nose and making a grimace of disgust. Well, rather than give the long-form answer, I chose the short-form response, “Because it’s what we, all of us have in common. We’re all going to die. So why not talk about it while we still can?” I don’t know if that answer was persuasive enough to have convinced her, but it was a start.
Death doesn’t generally make an appointment
It makes good sense to talk about death and dying, and deathcare before it’s absolutely unavoidable, and when we’re least prepared for it. You see, death doesn’t generally make an appointment. Nor do we have any clue when the Reaper will pay us a call, unless of course your execution date and time has been published or you have carefully planned your suicide. You see, the only thing that is certain is that we are going to die; you can be grateful to have awakened this morning but you don’t know if you’ll do the same tomorrow morning. That’s reality, people.
As a bereavement chaplain and looking back on my hospital chaplain days, I can hardly count the number of times I heard families say:
- Who should we call? (They have no clue how to manage arrangements for removal of the body or making funeral arrangements.)
- How are we going to get him [or her] home? (Referring to removal of the person who just died to a funeral home near the family.)
- Why didn’t he [or she] talk about this? (The deceased had some secrets that they didn’t share or some unfinished business.)
- I don’t know what she [or he] wanted; I don’t know what to do? (The deceased never talked about what they wanted done after their death or didn’t have an advance directive or didn’t leave instructions, that is, no advance directive or living will!)
- I just can’t make that decision! (I’m confused. I’m not ready yet to let him/her go. I’m buying time. Maybe someone else can make the decision.)
- I don’t know! I just don’t know! Just let me think! (Stop! I’m overloaded! I have to process this!)
Well, for every common sense, practical reason I can tell you we should want to talk about death and dying and we need to do that like yesterday!
Pastorally and practically I really think that every couple married and contemplating marriage should be regulars at Thanatology Café. Every parent should be sharing at a Thanatology Café because death makes no distinction between young and old, natural or traumatic death, or self-inflicted death. If you’ve experienced the death of a loved one or of a close friend, you may be grieving and want to share your insights. If you are grieving, you may need or want support to move towards healing and transformation. If you are alive, you need to talk about death and dying.
No one has any right to leave decisions to the uninformed family members without having at least spoken to them about what you want done if you can’t decide for yourself, whether its pre-death, during dying, or post-death. It’s just not fair to put them in that position. That’s a very major reason why we have to talk about death and dying.
We have to talk about death and dying because most of you, like our otherwise well-educated and very aware librarian, ask the silly question, “Why do you want to talk about that?!?” An even simpler answer is: “Because it’s our duty and responsibility to our survivors!”
Thanatology Café is the place to properly enter into conversation about the only certainty in life, the fact that we are all going to die and the only right and responsible thing to do is to talk about it and learn about it.
Join us in March for the inaugural launch of your local Thanatology Café program. Just follow this blog (click the Follow button in the margin) or let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This will be the talk of a lifetime.
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