Five Things I've learned from being a Death Cafe Host and Volunteer by Megan Mooney.

By Megan Mooney   who hosts a Death Cafe in the USA and runs the Death Cafe Facebook page

By Megan Mooney
who hosts a Death Cafe in the USA and runs the Death Cafe Facebook page

1. Impermanence
The fact that nothing in life is permanent, including life itself. Observing nature shows us this - there is change, life and death. It’s when one is truly able to apply this exercise correctly, that their whole outlook on life changes. You discover that days and minutes are not to be taken for granted. Living fully and present is the only way to live. You love with your whole heart but, you concede that the people you love, do not belong to you and you will one day have to say goodbye - either through death, divorce or some other form of loss. You appreciate and savor the good days and on those terrible days or the times of deep sorrow and loss in your life, you contemplate and remember that this heartbreak is not permanent or that ‘this too shall pass’.

2. “The way to see how beautiful life is, is from the vantage point of death” - Ursula Guin
In order to see life as complete and bright is to view it as a mortal. We are all going to die - I will die and so will you. What would be the point of life if there was no death? Death makes life possible in many ways. Our views on death usually inform the way we live. When you start to come to terms with your own mortality, it pushes you to really go live your life and to be the best version of yourself; there our many studies that show how thinking about or talking about death can make you a happier and more giving/thoughtful person.

3. Talking about death helps you to be your true/authentic self
Death is intimate and most of us have stories, memories and questions starting from way back in our childhood to bring to the table at a Death Cafe. When you talk about death, it forces you to take your mask off and reveal your hidden and true self. It causes the pretense to disappear and people are able to talk very openly with others about such an important topic. When we talk about life from the view of death, it helps us to become aware and brings us closer to our authentic selves. By sitting down and discussing death, people are able to self-reflect, question their assumptions and are able to get honest about what they really want to achieve and who they really want to be.

4. Relationships matter the most in life
One of the number one themes that comes up at a Death Cafe is the type of legacy people want to leave, which is to be remembered for being a good mother, father, husband, wife and etc. We all want to leave a legacy behind of having made a difference in the life of someone else. When we confront our own mortality, we see things in sharper focus. We see that our material possessions, social status, jobs and all those other things we thought were so important, don’t really matter. But, that our loved ones, those we turn to and who turn to us; the people we love and who love us, they are what truly matters.

5. Metaphors hurt people
People do not ‘win’ or ‘lose’ their ‘battle’ with cancer. Using these war metaphors in regards to people with cancer or other serious illnesses is just plain cruel. It implies that one person deserves to live and that one person deserves to die. It is saying that if you get diagnosed with cancer, you must go to ‘war’, ‘battle’ and ‘fight’. Many people get treatment only because of this - they’re hearing these metaphors from their family members and society. However, they don’t want to ‘keep going and stay strong’. They want to stop treatment, which is NOT ‘giving up’; it’s taking control of their own life and death. This is the time that they need their loved ones the most.

Megan Mooney

About Megan Mooney
Megan Mooney is an MSW (Masters of Social Work) and works in end of life research at the University of Missouri. She is the host of Death Cafe St. Joe, runs the
Death Cafe Facebook page and was a board member of Death Cafe London. According to deathcafe.com, Megan has ‘played a significant role in Death Cafe's development’.  She is also the Facebook lead for Pallimed. Megan was the caregiver of her father for three years and is very passionate about end of life work. Follow Megan can be reached at @MeganMooneyMSW.