The Death Café (A Poem)

TRIGGER WARNING: This poem discusses thoughts about death and is not intended to upset or offend anyone. The Death Café is held monthly in the back of an art shop in town. It’s not at all morbid; it isn’t a grief or support group, just a place to discuss the topic openly and ask questions. It isn’t about religion, or lack of it, It is open to anyone who wishes to know more and, perhaps, has some unanswered questions about death in a practical sense. This is about my first visit there.

I woke up early to a mackerel sky
With rain afoot in the weather’s eye
Thoughts turned to how I wanted to die
You may be puzzled and wondering why
I went to a Death Café with my friend
By writing this, I don’t mean to offend
Each debated how we would like to end
An honest discussion; no need to pretend

I hadn’t been to a Death Café before
I was a bit nervous as I walked in the door
Curious to know what was in store
Eager to learn and keen to know more

Seated inside were six women, four men
I listened intently; made notes with my pen
Wondering whether to go there again
It’s only monthly, so I’ll decide then

I spoke to my children last night; you see
Asked them how they would remember me
I told them I want to be laid by a tree*
Said we should get together, us three

My daughter agreed; she was perfectly fine
My son stayed silent and sipped his wine
We all have to go at some unknown time
But ultimately, the decision’s not mine.

*I’m passionate about trees and nature. I told my children I wanted to be buried close to a tree, preferably an oak. If you’d like to understand more about my passion for trees, you might like to read my post about a conversation between a special Tree and me Tree.

(Photo by Jordan Benton:

Author: Ellie Thompson

Writing my memoirs, musings, a little fiction and a lot of poetry as a way of exploring and making the most of my life ... ... Having had a break from writing my blog for more than three years, I decided to return to write my memoirs, some day-to-day observations, views and feelings. My passion is non-fiction poetry. I have a disability and use an electric powerchair called Alfie and let nothing get in the way of living life to the full. I believe that you can never do a kindness too soon and should give credit where credit is due. A smile or a kind word could make the difference between a good or bad day for a person - we never know what's going on for another soul. Those little things, perhaps, practised daily like a mantra, could mean so much to someone else. Thank you for visiting my blog and reading a little more about me. Please, make yourself at home here. You are very welcome. Ellie x 😊

38 thoughts on “The Death Café (A Poem)”

  1. One of our library branches hosts a death cafe. I’ve never been. I would think in my area it would just turn into a bunch of Christians validating one another’s beliefs. Death has been on my mind pretty much 24/7 since Susan’s mother died. I could probably use some unguided discussion.

    1. I can understand you having the subject of death on your mind following the loss of Susan’s mother. I think that’s quite natural. In actual fact, we didn’t have anyone talking about their faith in the group. We all respected that people have different beliefs, and debating that wasn’t on the agenda. Even so, there was a real mix of people, some born in other countries with other views of death; others had parents or grandparents with differing opinions to them. It was a really open discussion led by two people. It’s made clear at the beginning that it wasn’t a support or grief group, but those who needed that were told where they could get this sort of help and support. Only two people got upset, and that was okay, too. People are, understandably, very wary of talking about death. This was such an open and informative session that I found it quite reassuring. Perhaps, you could go to your library to try it; you can always leave at any point if you’re uncomfortable. Good luck if you decide to go along.

    1. So glad you enjoyed my poem, Kate. I think, being in a group like this, helps you to keep an open mind about the topic and can take away the fear of death that most people have. I like your view on this, too. Xx 💐

  2. Woah…a death cafe. What does that mean? What was it about, Ellie? Interesting that there were people there and you were able to take some (probably really awesome) notes. Did they discuss suicide over cups of tea? Were they for it? Against it? Offering counselling? I’m asking a lot of questions because I’m so curious!

    1. It was a really fascinating discussion, Janet. Nothing to do with death was off-limits, providing we were kind and understanding of each other and our views and experiences. Yes, suicide was one of the many aspects of death discussed. Coffee and tea were available, too. They didn’t offer counselling as it wasn’t a grief counselling or therapy group, but if someone needed that, the organisers could point that person in the right direction to get that help and support. There were probably about fifteen people in the group, and naturally, everyone had their own needs and beliefs. However, religion wasn’t discussed at all unless it was relative to the topic of death. Everyone totally respected everyone else’s views and wishes. It was a fascinating experience, and hoping to go again next month. Xx 💖

  3. Ellie, I have never heard of Death Cafe’s before but have no issue at all when it comes to discussing the subject freely and out in the open. It sounds like a very interesting concept. Loved your poem and learning of the meaning behind it.

    1. Thank you, Bruce. I’m glad you’re okay with the topic. I think you would have liked the event (it’s monthly). It was a fascinating experience and I’m hoping to go again next month. Thank you, too, for appreciating my poem and also reading my Befriend a Tree post. Hope you have a good day.

    1. Thanks, Devang. I’m glad you’re liking the variety of poetry that I’m writing these days. I enjoy my writing so much. I’m so glad you’re happy to see more of my work, even if it’s sometimes difficult to keep up with 😉. I will definitely keep on sharing. Thanks again.

  4. These are discussions we have to have, although many people shy away from them. In a way, by having them we are making things easier for those we leave behind who have to deal with the practicalities.

    1. I totally agree with you, Mick. It just seemed very sensible to me. I’ve spoken to both my children about my wishes for when I’ve gone. My daughter is very open to discussing it, but my son is more uncomfortable. I was even going to reserve my ‘space’ in a place called Old Park Meadow, which is a large nature area. It has trees, wildflowers, bat boxes, birds’ nests, and more. My only problem with that is that I can’t afford the reservation fee! I’ll just have to trust my children to arrange to have me there when my time comes. I visited the place with a friend, and it’s beautiful.

      1. that’s the kind of place I would hope to go. My mother-in-law died last year and her ashes were scattered in a woodland burial ground at the foot of the South Downs after a lovely humanist service. Exactly what she had wanted.

        1. How lovely, Mick. I’m glad she had her wishes met. When my Mum died, we didn’t want to scatter her ashes, and where to place them was a bit of a problem as one sister lives in Australia, one in Devon and one in Somerset, meaning Mum’s ashes would have been split up, which we didn’t want. So, we decided to have Mum’s ashes with her mother and aunt in Golders Green in London. It’s such a shame I can’t get there, though, as the train station there isn’t accessible, and the trains, in general, are a nightmare to travel on with a big wheelchair. I definitely want a non-denominational service when I go, just as we had for Mum.

          1. It is a shame you can’t get there, Ellie. Can you get to a nearby station and then take a taxi? My parents are both buried in Orpington, which isn’t that far but a bit of a trek, but over the years I’ve found that visiting graves doesn’t make too much difference to how I feel; it’s more of a case of what my state of mind is. Just looking at photographs of them and thinking of them seems to work the same way for me (obviously we’re all different).

    1. Thank you so much, Pamelap. That’s such a kind thing to say. I enjoy my writing so much – it’s become my favourite thing to do. I’m honoured to share my work with wonderful readers like you. Xx 💐🤗🌼💞.

  5. I have never heard of a Death Cafe,and might actually go to one if one was available. But I would probably get thrown out, because I am not afraid of death. Enough about me.
    This is a bold move, Ellie, and I am glad to see you make it. If you are willing to talk about conversations you had while there, I would love to near them.
    I am always intrigued by how other people approch their own death. As inevitable as it is, it is certainly an important part of life.

    1. Hi, J. I hadn’t heard of Death Cafes before discovering this one. They are held all over the country over here. I think you’d enjoy them if ‘enjoy’ is the right word. You definitely wouldn’t get thrown out, as there were people of many differing opinions on death present. All views were accepted if they were honest, not offensive and respectful. There were lots of people from different countries and of different faiths, too. We all had different rituals regarding death. I learned a lot from other people. Some were terrified of dying, others weren’t sure, and others weren’t in the least bit scared. Your views would be very welcome. Quite a few of us had lost a dear relative or friend, and some found themselves curious about their own situation. It wasn’t all serious; there were things to laugh about, too.

      There are still things we’ll never know, such as what goes through the minds of people very close to death. I wish I knew what my Mum was thinking, if anything, just before she died. I do know that, very often, the sick person (assuming it’s not a tragic or sudden death) will often appear to brighten up several hours or even the day before they die. I’m going by what happened with my Nan many years ago. She had kidney failure but perked up for the last visit from her family. She passed away that night. It was a similar experience with my Mum. The day before she died, she seemed to be doing better; even the nurse remarked on this. It gave me [false] hope. She died alone the following morning. It haunts me that she was alone, but I’ve often heard it’s not uncommon for people to want to slip quietly away on their own. We’ll never know, of course. It’s a very deep subject, really and one I’ll never have an answer for.

      It’s Mother’s Day here tomorrow. Weather permitting, I will take myself off to a teashop or cafe, order a pot of tea with toast and marmalade (Mum’s favourite breakfast) and write a letter in a card to my Mum. I keep them all in a drawer in my bedroom. I have done this every Mother’s Day and on Mum’s birthday (apart from during lockdown). I sit at the table, drinking tea etc. and write as if she is sitting there with me. It’s a very special thing for me to do.

      Perhaps, you could try to seek out death cafes over there; you never know, and there might be some that you don’t know about. Often, they’re in libraries; ours is at the back of an art and craft workshop. Good luck with your search if that’s what you want to do. 💙🧡💙

      1. I live in a redneck town, population 3500. I can buarantee there are no Death cafes anywhere nearby. (There are 3 cafes in town, and a Tim Horton’s. Talking about death is not a subject of interest, unless it is the death of all the “libtards” in the world.) .

    1. Oh, wow! I’m so pleased you’ve decided to take the plunge. I hope it’s all or more than you expect it to be. I’d be interested to hear more about it after the event. Perhaps, you might want to write a post about your experience there, too. I hope it goes well.

  6. I’ve never heard of Death Cafe, but I think it’s very important to have these kind of discussions. We all die at some point and letting your children know your wishes is a great gift to them. We’ve attended several funerals lately and I’ve told my kids what I want when I go. I don’t think the conversations has to be dark, it’s part of life. If we are lucky, it’s a peaceful death and we get to find out what happens next.

    1. The Death Cafe was an entirely unknown concept until I learned about it. I didn’t realise such a thing existed. It was so interesting and not morbid at all. It was good to hear other people’s views, visions and beliefs. I agree it’s so important to have these conversations with our children. My Mum would never go near the subject, so when we lost her, we had no idea what her wishes would have been. She did, thankfully, make a will, which made things a little easier at least. We chose everything about the funeral to be what we thought Mum would have liked and I do believe she would have done. Yes, a peaceful death is very desirable although it doesn’t always turn out that way. I’m sorry you’ve had a lot of funerals to attend lately. That’s sad, especially if it’s a loved one who you’ve lost. I’m glad you’ve talked so openly to your children, too. Much love, my dear friend. Xx 💖

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