Inaugural death café set for Saturday afternoon in Mesa - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Inaugural death café set for Saturday afternoon in Mesa

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Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 10:15 am

If all goes right, Saturday’s death café in Mesa will be the first of many conversations that will provide attendees new ways to see the finality of existence.

Scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. at Mariposa Gardens, co-founder and facilitator Kimberly Murman said the death café will feature philosophical discussions of death and life in what she described as a safe setting, one complete with tea and cakes.

“We plan to make this not fun-ny, but enjoyable,” she said.

The concept originated in Europe and has spread across the U.S. and to Arizona, with groups forming in Tucson, Sedona and even Flagstaff. But Murman said the Valley hasn’t had a death café meeting of its own, and she said the area is missing out because of it.

What they’re missing, she said, is a small-group discussion of death and its various implications — what happens next, how to cope with it and other angles — started with a question by a facilitator. It’s designed to be something of a Socratic seminar, with the initial question and any possible follow up questions meant to guide the discussion in an organic direction.

The goal of the discussion is to take some of the scariness out of death while providing participants — whether they speak or just listen to the conversation — a new perspective about it.

“There’s a lot of things about aging, death and dying people aren’t able to talk about,” she said.

Death is a topic Murman and co-founder Jacqueline Makarounis deal with a lot as chaplains at a hospital and a hospice, respectively, and one Murman said has a lot of mystery to it. Some of the opaqueness is tied to the euphemisms used to describe death — Murman cited the word “passing” and the phrase “God has another angel” as examples — that cloud the topic.

Also of note is the way death is presented to children, as some parents try to mask the demise of a family member or even a pet. Probably the best example of the latter is the line about the dog that’s sent up to the farm parents often tell their kids.

“In our heart of hearts, we know that’s not true,” she said.

The view of death can change depending on the region, as a person who grew up outside of Pittsburgh, Pa., like Murman could have a different perception of than someone from Arizona or Canada or either Washington. That’s why she said one of the benefits of hosting such an event in Arizona is the ability to take advantage of the melting pot and see how people from different regions or countries understand death.

“That will be the real interesting piece, to see what the philosophies are,” she said.

Murman emphasized the death café is not a grief support group — there will be information available on hand to redirect people to the right group — but more of an exploration on a taboo topic.

The goal is to host a death café meeting at least once a month — Murman said one is scheduled for September, and others are planned tentatively for October and November — and help people embrace the inevitable.  

 “Death and taxes are the only things we can’t avoid, and some people are avoiding taxes,” she said.

Mariposa Gardens is located at 400 S. Power Road in Mesa. A few spots are still open for Saturday, and people can call Murman at (602) 738-2789, email her at or visit for more information.

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