A dinner party to talk about dying sounded brilliant. All it took to garner my husband's support was an explanation of how I’d found an organization called Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death -- a killer idea.
What can I say—the man appreciates a good pun.
I posted the event to Facebook well in advance, offered up vague promises of unconventional conversation along with assurances that neither I, nor my husband, were in fact creepy, ghoulish, or weird, and to my surprise, people quickly agreed to attend.
Sixty days out I got serious about the night’s agenda and sent for detailed talking points from Let’s Have Dinner. But what arrived was not what I expected—a long list of homework to be assigned completed by the attendees in advance. Except I wanted the evening to feel effortless, not forced, and homework just didn’t factor into the equation. Thirty days out I was still without an agenda so I turned to Twitter for salvation. Surely I wasn’t the only host/hostess who wanted to go rogue? I was thrilled when a reply came from Australia suggesting the simplistic approach: draw questions from a hat. A deliciously straightforward solution, but I was worried it might be awkward.
Look, I know you are surrounded by total strangers, but please don’t let that inhibit you from revealing your deepest thoughts and emotions regarding a topic only marginally less taboo than sex.
Would it be awkward? Pointless? Painful? I didn’t really know and it made me nervous.
Seven days out my anxiety kicked into overdrive and I briefly toyed with cancelling except I couldn’t bring myself to fabricate an outright lie and explaining the truth—um, yeah, so the thought of facilitating this strange conversation is causing my insides to melt—was out of the question.
Four days out I finalized the menu, made arrangements for extra chairs, purchased replicas of tiny headstones and a million candles for decoration, then tried not to fret. When the appointed day arrived I threw myself into preparations, cleaning every square inch of the house irrespective of the fact that we’d be eating outside.
Then the guests appeared, the sun went down, and we settled around the table, all of us equally unsure what to expect.
If you could plan your own funeral, what would it include?
Bagpipes—I’m a cop and the sound of those pipes ushered me into this life I’ve been lucky enough to lead, so I want them ushering me right back out, at the end.
Traditional burial, cremation, or something else?
I want my family and friends to take my ashes and travel the globe, scattering me in places that hold meaning for them, places they’ve experienced beauty, gratitude, or reflection.
What is your greatest fear about dying?
That I won’t be remembered—that I’ll be forgotten and then I’ll be nothing, no one.
And so it went, an entire evening spent in companionable discussion about dying; some moments funny, some sad, others effortless, a few enlightening.
Best overhead comments as the guests were departing?
I had no idea my husband wanted that!
That was really weird…in a good way…I think.
We should do this again.