Art of Dying Volume II | Page 72

JON UNDERWOOD & BILL PALMER JON UNDERWOOD: I first got interested in death in 1998. It wasn't because of a bereavement or any personal experience. It was because I got interested in Buddhism and there was a teaching by the Buddha on the value of looking at impermanence and death that really resonated with me. I volunteered in a hospice and read Kübler-Ross and other texts and trained in spiritual care for the dying. In 2010 I said to my sister, "I'd really like to create some websites around death.” That was a transformational moment for me. Ideas flooded into my head, and I was really hyper for two or three weeks. I could hardly sleep. I’ve never experienced anything like it before or since. At the end of that time, I had developed some ideas for projects around death and dying. One of them was a project for people who aren't dying to get them talking about death. DEAN BRANNAGAN So for the second Death Café we just let people talk, and that's what we've been doing ever since. JON UNDERWOOD 72 | ART OF DYING About three months later, my step-father gave me an article from the Independent about the work of Bernard Crettaz and his first Café Mortel in Paris. That very day I realized "That's it. That's beautiful. It's democratic. It's open. Food and drink. What's not to like?" and I thought, "That's exactly what I want to do," and that was the moment I decided to create Death Café I went to a local café and asked, "Could I run a Death Café here?" They looked at me really blankly and said, "What's that?" I tried to explain. They just said, "Can you email us about this?" So I did and never heard back. I was stuck. I wanted to do it, but I didn't know how. Then a friend suggested doing a popup thing, and I thought, "That's brilliant. Then I've got control of the environment. I'll just do it here in my house.” So I asked my mum to do the Death Café with me. She was like, "Well, all right. I'll do it. I’ll bake the cakes. What is it?" I came up with this elaborate structure of having people write down their hopes and wishes that would