Death Cafe & Art

A Forum at Traverse City’s Art & Design Studio

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a Death Café with poetry and art? That’s a question Julie DiFranco asked after she and Nancy Gallagher held their fourth Death Café here in the Traverse City, Michigan area. Julie and Nancy are both nurses serving hospice patients. They took the initiative to continue a phenomenon started in the United Kingdom in 2011.

Just what is a Death Café, you might ask? To quote the folks at Death Cafe, “A Death Cafe is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counseling session. Our aim is to increase awareness of death to help people make the most of their (finite) lives.” Giles Frasier, writer for The Guardian, makes the point that not talking about death makes it all the more difficult.

What a wonderful thing, or a horrible thing, depending on how you view the mortality elephant sitting in the room. I choose the former, as did many folks last weekAt this Death Cafe, Julie’s wish came true, at least the art part, as we met at the Traverse City Art & Design Studio, surrounded by art. Our gracious hosts were studio directors, Carol Buck and Mark O’Shaughnessey. Nancy brought a carrot cake that was, pardon the pun, to die for! I should have gotten a photo but it was gobbled up with great speed and enthusiasm.

As Death Café founder Jon Underwood, intended, we had neither agenda, nor keynote speaker, nor structure; just people who want to talk about death. The conversation goes where it may, gently guided by Nancy and Julie. Folks participate if and when the spirit moves them making contributions from personal experience to practical resources.

When I first heard of a Death Café, I was so excited I was prepared to travel 3 hours to the closest one in Michigan. I’m thrilled that Julie and Nancy have started one here in Traverse City and I’m looking forward to more. Next time, we’ll have to work on the poetry part of Julie’s wish. Information about future Traverse City area Death Cafes can be found at the new Facebook page Death Café Traverse City. Please visit and ‘Like’ us, or better yet, come to our next Death Cafe and bring a poem!

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