By Pat Loeb
PHILADELPHIA (CBS)--Tea and cookies and…death.
It may seem an odd combination but that’s what’s on the menu for Saturday, November 2nd, when the third Philadelphia area Death Cafe convenes at St. Peter’s Church in Glenside.
Death Cafes are the brainchild of Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz, who made a study of the rituals and attitudes surrounding death in the West and then began holding open social gatherings to discuss mortality, calling them “Cafes Mortels.”
The practice began to spread when he wrote a book about them in 2010. First there was one in Paris, then an Englishman translated the idea for London, then they began to spread virally.
The website deathcafe.com estimates there have been 400 such gatherings in nine countries on three continents in the last three years.
Bernadette Laster brought the concept to the Philadelphia area, holding the first local death cafe in July.
“We here in the Western culture generally don’t want to talk about death,” she says, even though, “It’s something all of us are going to experience. It’s part of the natural cycle of life.”
Laster says conversation ranges from discussing how to help a terminally ill loved one to how to speak to someone who’s recently experienced the loss of someone close.
“One person stood up and said, ‘I have stage four cancer and I want to continue to live my life,'” according to Laster.
As a “social franchise,” Laster says there are rules for conducting a Death Cafe: It is not for profit; it is held in an accessible, respectful and confidential space; it includes light refreshment; it can have no intention of leading people to any conclusion, product or course of action.
For Laster, the most important aspect of the Cafe is to inspire a greater appreciation for life by calling attention to its finite nature.
“The logo for the Philadelphia Death Cafe,” she says,” is ‘Live. Love. Laugh.'”
And Laster says that has been the spirit of the two gatherings she’s already hosted in Glenside.
One young man, she says, stood up after the first meeting to proclaim “I am so excited. All I want is a wave of love to come out of my heart and envelope everybody that I even meet and touch.”
“And I said, ‘I want to be in that tsunami.’ So the magic just happened,” says Laster.