Death Over Dinner

Recently, Bruno and I attended a funeral for a friend and ex-boss of his. During the service, in the eulogies given, something repeatedly mentioned was not only how this individual lived, but how he died. Ill and hospitalized at the end of his life, he stated again and again that the only thing he wanted was to not die in a hospital. He wanted, more than anything, to die at home. It was said he never complained of anything, never asked for anything his whole life, even when he was initially brought into the hospital. His only request was to die at home. It did not happen.

In the past month we have attended four funerals, and had to make heartbreaking choices for a loved one about how they too, would die. Every eulogy we heard addressed not only how each person lived, but how they died. I came away with an even greater understanding that how you die becomes part of your biography.

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According to recent data and studies 70% of Americans want to die at home, yet only 25% do so. It was this disturbing and startling information that led Michael Hebb, inaugural MCDM Teaching Fellow, University of Washington and Scott Macklin, MCDM Associate Director, University of Washington to create the Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death Project. The initial course resulted in a long term project, Death Over Dinner and indiegogo campaign :

Death Over Dinner has partnered with the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation to launch the Let’s have Dinner (“LHD”), project with a global evening of dinners and a launch of of the full deathoverdinner.org website. The website will offer inspiration, ideas and digital resources to complete post dinner, such as organ donor-ship or living will forms. “The real opportunity here is not to simply increase the number of living wills, but to give people the permission and the resources to have this conversation, in a constructive, life affirming, and even elegant manner. The more skill we have when it comes to end-of-life decision making – and the more we know about what our loved ones want – the more power we will have to ensure that wishes are fulfilled,” Michael Hebb, LHD Founder.

How we want to die is one of the most important decisions and conversations we need to have with our loved ones and we aren’t talking. We encourage you to create a safe and loving space for those you care about to talk about death. Host your own dinners, (or tea or cocktail parities!), and support the Death Over Dinner project.

Here at Nourishing Death, we plan to host our own LHD. Here are a few ideas we have been considering:

* Serving foods that are significant in death rituals or are traditional cultural foods at funerals and talking about them

* Taking advantage of Bruno’s (ex)professional mixology skills and creating a couple thematic drinks.

* Watching an Ask A Mortician video or two.

* Sharing or displaying some of the pieces from our mourning collection, (memento mori photos, hair art, mourning jewelry, coffin plaques, antique medicines, supplies and surgical tools).

* Reading a bit from author Bess Lovejoy’s fascinating tome, Rest In Pieces: The Curious Fate of Famous Corpses. 

* A playlist – because every dinner party needs a good playlist. Here is ours: Death For Dinner

We would love to learn about your own LHD ideas and efforts! Feel free to send us recipes, ideas, playlists, photos etc. to us at paranthropologists@gmail.com

You can follow Death Over Dinner on Twitter @deathoverdinner or on Facebook 

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Sarah Elizabeth Troop – @wunderkamercast 

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