Theresa Hamilton moderates the discussion at this week’s death café. (Jake Sherman/Revelstoke Review)

Revelstoke Death Café puts mortality front and centre

Death midwife Theresa Hamilton helps participants with the big questions surrounding life

It’s an average Monday night in Revelstoke. The dim streetlights on Second Avenue illuminate a passing glistening snowflake. Seated in a circle at Dose Café, 12 complete strangers are sharing conversation. The topic is death.

Tonight the oldest person here is over seventy. The youngest is in their teens.

There are atheists present. Some Christians. A Jew. Tears are shed. People hug. We’re at a Death Café.

Some of the topics being discussed tonight are: what makes a good death? What is it like to die? How would one like to die? What is the proper way to act in a cemetery? And how can one act as a role model for others when experiencing grief.

Surprisingly, more than anything else, though the subject matter is heavy, the participants laugh. It’s an affirmation of their own life in the face of mortality.

Is death funny? Not at all, says Theresa Hamilton, a death midwife who organizes the Death Café locally at Dose on the last Monday of every month, but far more than having any of their questions answered about their own mortality, the afterlife or their own family members deaths, participants, Hamilton says, leave appreciating the experience of life.

“I don’t think people’s views of death necessarily change after attending a Death Café,” says Hamilton before the event. “But definitely their views on life. They do.”

Over the course of the evening Hamilton moderates the discussion, but does not lead. The flow is organic, and all part of what she is trained to do.

People share their own experiences. They talk about their travels. About family members they’ve lost. The way those family members died. How they cope. What to say to someone who has experienced a loss.

“I would like a painful death over an embarrassing one,” says one of the participants, provoking laughter.

But a Death Café is not unique to our little town at all.

The first one was held in London, England, in 2011, and according to the non-profit societies who started the movement’s website, to date, there have been 5736 Death Café’s, held in 52 countries, in as distant locales as Thailand and Chile.

Locally, the first Death Café was held at Sangha Bean last year and organized by former owner Krista Manuel, who is also trained in death midwifery.

After learning about the concept and approach to dealing with death in school, she decided she would bring a Death Café to Revelstoke. Owning a café herself, she figured she had the perfect location.

Related: Krista Manuel to host Revelstoke’s first Death Café

Manuel says it’s never the same. That it often provokes laughter. And that it flows according to who is in the room.

“Laughing comes with death,” she says. “It’s a process of life.”

“There has to be the yin and the yang. Even when its dark, there is a lightness or a humour that somehow impacts it.”

Manuel says there will always be people who will be resentful of having these kinds of conversations openly, but that the more prominent these kinds of conversations become on a societal level, the more opportunity there will be for people to open up to them.

“It’s a ripple effect in the community,” she says.

Hamilton studied death midwifery with Manuel and was a semester behind her. Both are involved with Revelstoke Hospice, and interested in trying to remove some of the taboo that we as a society have attached to death and dying.

One of the participants tonight, George Hopkins, who is the elder in the room, has come to a number of these events, and says that he enjoys them immensely. He says he always comes away having listened and learned from the others in attendance.

“We have these great big why’s, and we try to break them down at a Death Café,” says Hamilton.

“It’s just about our stories and life experiences. When you end up talking about death or dying, you’re just really talking about how people lived. And then you’re just talking about people. Essentially it’s just storytelling.”

After the event, having moved and been moved, Hamilton is filled with humility. A participant tells her how grateful he was for the experience, that it has reminded him to be mindful of the falling snowflakes.

“I am but a spoke in the wheel,” she responds.

Hamilton holds Death Cafés on the last Monday of every month at Dose Café.

Just Posted

Province announces $100-million grant funding for Northwest communities

The Northern Capital and Planning Grant will go to four regional districts and 22 municipalities

Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project searches for partners

TransCanada is renewing permits for its natural gas pipeline project to North Coast.

Coastal GasLink stops work to investigate archaeological find

OGC archaeologists are en route to the Houston-area site where Unist’ot’en report finding stone tools

Coastal GasLink prepares sites of construction work camps

Unist’ot’en condemn 14 ‘man camps’ housing 500-800 workers as threatening safety of women and children

TSKLH Nation sues Province over Brucejack mine revenue sharing

The Tsetsaut/Skii km Lax Ha seeks to assert rights and title in the area around Pretivm gold mine.

‘Our entire municipality is heartbroken’: Seven children die in Halifax house fire

A man and woman remained in hospital Tuesday afternoon, the man with life-threatening injuries

B.C. high school robotics team ranked first in the world for programming

The Surrey team was also named tournament finalists at VEX Robotics Competition on Feb. 1

Man shot dead in front of Kamloops hotel may be case of mistaken identity: RCMP

Rex Gill, 44, was not previously known to Kamloops police unlike second shooting victim

New trial ordered over banning whales, dolphins at Vancouver aquarium

Park board’s appeal reverses previous decision that found it had no right to implement a ban

Payless to close 248 Canadian stores, saying it’s ‘ill-equipped’ for market

The company will begin closing stores at the end of March

Make sure measles shots up to date, Public Health Agency says

Measles causes high fever, coughing, sneezing and a widespread painful rash

Super snow moon set to rise across B.C.

It is the biggest and brightest moon of the year

Minister says plans to fight poverty, climate change, focus of B.C. budget

The NDP said in its throne speech last week that affordability will be the hallmark of its initiatives

UPDATED: ‘Violent’ B.C. man back in custody after Alberta arrest

Prince George man with ties to Vernon was being sought by police

Most Read