Let’s Have Dinner and Talk about Death

Dinner & Death Image
Image Source: http://deathoverdinner.org/

When working with credit unions and their members, we encourage conversations between the member and their family about how they plan to distribute their estate. Although not necessarily an easy discussion, it is much better to have this dialogue before death rather than possibility of a family being shocked by the contents of the deceased’s Will while in the midst of grieving.

So let’s take this a step further. Why not encourage members to have frank conversations about how they envision their final days. What are their wishes? Do they wish to be surrounded by family? Do they want to remain in their own home if possible? Is the family in agreement with these wishes?

What about the credit union staff who handle estate accounts and work with grieving families? Would a peer discussion about death make them more comfortable with the reality of having a distraught family member in their office?

There are many tools for starting this conversation, but one of the more unique approaches, the brainchild of Michael Hebb, is Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death.

As stated on their website:
We’re putting out a call to action for people to start a conversation with their friends or family about death and we’re giving people the tools to make it easier, more meaningful, and even fun.

Although this non-profit organization is based in the United States and the statistics are relevant to our neighbours to the south, the concept is intriguing. The video gives a fascinating snapshot of how this concept originated and developed. Michael Hebb, the founder, is based in Oregon and has been staging convivial gatherings and redefining hospitality/table making since 1997.

The 5-step tool guides you through planning your ‘talk about death’ dinner, preparation and post-dinner plans. This is your dinner; you choose the direction of the conversation through your selections in Steps 1, 2 and 3.

Step 1 is to decide who you will invite to your dinner; it could be family members, co-workers or friends.

Step 2 asks you to determine your intention; is there a terminal illness within your friend or family circle, have you recently lost someone or do you just wish to live fully and understand that difficult conversations are sometimes the most liberating?

Step 3 provides information for ‘pre-dinner homework’ where you are given various options to read, watch and listen. Here is a sampling of some of the options available to you under each category.

  • Read: Last Day from Charlotte’s Web, One Man’s Passing, The Photo Project of a Good Death and Top 5 Regrets of the Dying
  • Watch: Before I Die I Want To …, Steve Jobs How to Live Before you Die and The Coffinmaker
  • Listen: Finding the Lesson in Loss, Breaking the Taboo of Talking about Death and the Culture of Dying.

Step 4 enables you to activate your dinner! You enter your email address, click the Activate box. In a few minutes you receive an email with an invitation for your guests, the pre-dinner homework links and conversation prompts to keep you going throughout the dinner and some information on how to host and moderate the discussion during dinner.

Step 5 asks you to share your post-dinner story, to provide feedback to the team and to make a plan for end-of-life decisions.

Let’s Have Dinner and Talk about Death! It will be one of the most important conversations you’ll ever have.

Joan McAulay, Senior Personal Trust Specialist, Trust Relationship Management & Sales

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