Death and Hors D’Oeuvres
Let’s be honest – most of us are happy to forget about the fact that we are going to die one day. We try our very best to avoid the thought for as long as we possibly can, and we really don’t want to have the reality forced upon us.
I went to a reception last week which required lots of small talk. I know lots of people who hate making small talk, but I’ve never been one. (My mother says I could talk to a brick wall 🙂 ) Anyone who has been in this situation knows these polite conversations inevitably turn to discussions of employment. Since beginning my work at Foxfield, cocktail party conversation has taken on a whole new level of interest for me.
I’ll admit – I really enjoy watching the reactions when I tell people I operate a cemetery. Apparently people expect that only Scooby Doo villains with warts and a hump back operate cemeteries.
People are taken aback. Their eyes open wide, and frequently they take a step back. Some look at me as though my mere proximity may bring on their early demise. Often they will even quickly make excuses to leave the conversation! “Well look at that! Bill’s here. I gotta go say “hello” to that old so-and-so.” (Apparently I go to cocktail parties in the 1950s…) Being suddenly being faced with the thought of or a conversation about death in a casual atmosphere quite literally makes many people want to run away from me.
So, I let them change the subject. Agree that we need fresh drinks. Tell them to give my best to Bill. Then I watch them look back over at me across the room as they let things sink in. And inevitably, many people will make their way back to me before the evening is over. Once the opening has been made and they begin to actually think about it, they have so many questions!
Since death and dying is something that we try so hard to ignore in our society, it is also something we know very little about. Generally I end up with a pretty lively cocktail party conversation, after the initial shock has worn off.
My experiences seem to be small indicators of a larger movement that is happening across the country. People are more interested in breaking the taboos and talking about death and dying. There is a movement trying to actively change our culture’s relationship with end of life and our death rituals. Across the nation people are hosting casual discussions, Death Cafes, trying to gather people together over tea and cake to allow an open and honest conversation about our fears and curiousity regarding death. There is also a very popular YouTube video series called “Ask a Mortician” where viewer questions are addressed with frank honesty and humor. By opening lines of communication we’ll find more understanding of the end-of-life voyage, and help our loved ones and ourselves to prepare psychologically and emotionally for what is to come.
Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts and feelings about death with those close to you. You may just be surprised at how much they have to say on the subject. And you will doubtless be doing them a great service. Don’t worry if people shy away from you at first. More than likely they’ll come back with a fresh drink and some questions.