In an ideal world, all parents would be comfortable talking to their kids about sex, drugs and death. Even though all of these topics are incredibly important, most families are so afraid of them that the subjects are never broached, and opinions about them have to be made indirectly — by inference (in the case of sex) or legal documents (in the case of death).
It doesn't have to be this way. As I've mentioned in this space before, I was raised by my grandmother, and so conversations about her death were a regular and very normalized part of my childhood since it was a given she would not be around for my adulthood. Of course, it was sad to think and talk about, but we did often, and when she did eventually pass away, I was as prepared as one can be. Even though I was only 22 and had lost my primary parent, I knew exactly what she wanted and how to deal with all the details. Yes, her preparation and organization most definitely made my life much, much easier when that terrible day came. And I knew that I had honored her life in the way that she had wanted, no regrets.
Which is why I think the idea of death dinners is a great one; death is a part of life, and even though it may be sad, it's also healthy and normal to talk about it — really. The dinners are just what they sound like: a time for family members to sit down to a nice meal and talk over the tough stuff. This needn't be a morbid occasion, which is why combining it with a meal is such a good idea. This is practical, and real, and food can help ground the gathering.
The website Death Over Dinner offers a way to facilitate the process. It gently leads the organizer through a series of questions that can help make the planning of such a get-together a little more straightforward. Asking about who you'd want to attend, what your intention is (to make specific plans, to get a real conversation going about death and dying, or to prepare for another's death), and even providing resources to watch, listen and read, the site helps you navigate what can be complex, emotional waters.
As Bloomberg reports, more than 70 percent of adults don't have a will, and 30 percent of people over 65 don't. Frankly, it's an unfair burden to pass along to your friends and family just because some people feel that death is too awkward a subject for dinner — until now.
There's a huge generation of people entering their golden years, and the Baby Boomers have a chance to make their deaths, like their lives, something different. To start new ways of thinking about old ideas, to shake some of the formality out of 'what's always been done.' And there's plenty of practical reasons to talk about your death over dinner; you can let your wishes be known to those who are closest to you. Do you want your body to be buried, cremated, or donated to medical science? If you are in a coma or brain dead, what do you want done with your body (please donate your organs!)? What do you want done with your stuff and who gets what?
As anyone who has experienced a close family member's death (I have experienced several), it is a tremendous gift to your family to get this information sorted out ahead of time. A real, detailed conversation over dinner is a great way to start.
Throughout history, human beings have lived much closer to death and dying (since people died at home with family) than in the modern era, where we slip out into the great unknown from hospital beds and under the care of nurses and doctors. It's not unnatural to talk about dying; it's actually kind of strange that we don't.
Would you consider holding dinner to talk over your post-mortem plans?
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