Early in June I sent out one of the more unusual dinner invitations that I have extended to friends – and I have extended many. I love an intimate gathering of friends around the dinner table and the conversations that ensue.
Earlier, in late May, I heard about Michael Hebb’s (check it out here
) initiative out of the States called Let’s Have Dinner & Talk About Death
. The Australian based organisation was officially launched in May 2016 under the auspices of Australian Centre for Health Research (ACHR).
Just One Life (that’s me) hosted its (my) inaugural Let’s Have Dinner & Talk About Death in June 2016. On the last Saturday evening in June, eight people gathered at my home to talk about a topic that most of us find hard to think about let alone talk about. Although I had met all the people around the table before, I did not know them well and nor did they all know each other.
As per the suggestions from the Death Over Dinner framework we started by sharing what had each person be interested enough to turn up for the conversation. And each of them raised a glass to a person who had died that they deeply admired.
What I didn’t know as I placed my hand on the shoulder of the man to my left, as we stood around my kitchen bench, was that his eldest son had died in the last month. His heart felt sharing of his experience was a humbling and precious gift. His openness and honesty set the most amazing tone for what was to follow.
Little did I know that by the time eight of us shared our reasons for wanting to be part of the conversation and raised a glass to those we had lost from our lives that the night would be heading into its third hour and dessert was not far away.
The suggested topics of conversation offered by the Death Over Dinner team I’d noted and a pile of written notes from the video, audio and readings I had so carefully prepared sat untouched on the table. This was a group of people who wanted to have open and heartfelt conversations about dying, death, loss and how it can be done so much better in so many domains. We talked about the importance of having these conversation long before we are in crisis and having to make significant decisions about our own or others’ lives while flooded by emotion, angst and even pain.
No further conversation prompts were required. It felt like we had only just looked at the surface of the topic and seen glimpses of future conversations to be had.
Although the Death Over Dinner structure offered the invitation to speak to and take a practical action based on the conversation the night has stretched on long enough. Instead we made it fit with us. We shared an Appreciation in the Round – speaking to something we admired or appreciated about the person on our left. We then went out into the chilly and quiet night and stood in silence under the open, starry sky reflecting on the evening, the conversations we had and were yet to have, the loss of those we love and the enormity of the universe we live in.
I am filled with gratitude for the interest shown, the presence of and the wide open conversations and emotions that these wondrous human becomings shared with me. I invite you to consider being a part of a Death Over Dinner conversation. You might choose to host your own Death Over Dinner conversation with those you love! All the support is just a google search away.
We have just one life…
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Just One Life… doing and designing dying and death differently and with dignity and distinction.
For more information on doing dying and death differently or to start thinking about how to handle a death of a loved one before you are overtaken by grief, organise a conversation with Jacqui today.
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Jacqui Chaplin is a Lifetime & End-of-Life Commemoration Specialist (a funeral celebrant among other things) based in Melbourne, Australia. She loves capturing stories about the nature of life and being human, as well as, celebrating and commemorating well lived lives and lives that have ended. Jacqui has a passion for bringing the conversations that many of us find difficult to think about, let alone speak about, out in the open so we can see how our stories, values and beliefs influence our attitudes.
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