November 9, 2015
NANCY FRAZIER O'BRIEN
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

BALTIMORE - When Valerie Sirani and Amy Brown hosted the first gathering in Baltimore known as a "death cafe," they did not know what to expect.

"If five people showed up, I would have been happy with that," Brown told Catholic News Service.

Instead they had 29 participants, ranging in age from 18 to 85, for a two-hour discussion over coffee and cake of issues many have a hard time discussing with their friends and relatives.

The first death cafe took place in 2011 in London, based on the work of Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz, who hosted what he called cafe mortels in Switzerland and France years earlier.

ENHANCE LIFE

The objective of the gatherings is to "increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives," the website www.deathcafe.com says.

There is no set agenda or schedule for the death cafes, in order to allow participants to dictate what they would like to talk about.

The only rules are that no one should try to sway other participants to a particular ideology or belief system and that the discussion must be respectful and confidential. And there also must be cake or some other nourishment.