Death and cake?

A death cafe held at Racy’s

Liz Curtin

More stories from Liz Curtin

Cinephiles
November 25, 2022
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Photo by Liz Curtin

Death cafe: a place to discuss the inevitable end.

From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 6 The Nucleus at Racy D’Lenes Coffee Lounge turned into a death cafe. The event was hosted by Allison Fine, a biology department assistant at UW-Eau Claire and creator of Kaleidoscope Soul

Kaleidoscope Soul is a website that focuses on massage therapy, wellness, fitness and community events.  

Death Cafes can be held by anyone but they were first created by Jon Underwood. Death cafes do not need to be held in person and some death cafes, as shown on the death cafe website, are held online. When Fine learned about death cafes, she decided to host one

She hosted her first death cafe in Eau Claire at her house and advertised it using the NextDoor App.

“I ended up having eight random women show up at my house and it was cool because they never would’ve met otherwise,” Fine said. 

Now, she tries to host her own death cafe at least once a month at Racy’s. She also provides her own homemade cake for the events and drinks are available for purchase. 

At the event, Fine asked icebreaker questions to get the discussion going and provided attendees with notes too, in case they wanted to write something down that they wanted to research later.

During the most recent event, Fine provided two cakes — a cranberry orange cake with orange buttercream and a fall spice cake with fig and buttermilk — to mark the one-year anniversary of her hosting the event. 

At the end of the event, she also recommended three books related to the topic of death. The books were “Death & Sparkles” by Rob Justus, “Sheets” by Brenna Thummler and “Grief Day By Day: Simple Practices And Daily Guidance For Living With Loss,” by Jan Warner. 

Fine promotes the event using fliers, social media and word of mouth. She says that those who attend often come back.

 “I think the reason that people are attracted to going to them is that it’s the one thing everyone has in common,” Fine said. 

One of the returning guests is Lisa Quinn-Lee, a grief therapist and social work professor at UW-Eau Claire. Quinn-Lee said she had been attending death cafes before she even came to Eau Claire and goes to around six death cafes a year. 

She also currently teaches a death and dying class on campus. She explained why people can benefit from the death cafes. 

“You’re being given permission to talk about death and I don’t think there’s many places in life where you’re given permission to talk about this,” said Quinn-Lee. 

Fine also explained that the death cafe is a place where people can freely discuss death.

“Society has made it this norm that we don’t talk about it so the more people talk about it now the more it’s getting normalized,” said Fine.

Liz Curtin can be reached at [email protected]