An evening of coffee, cake and death
Death. The subject is usually a conversation stopper.
But not at a Death Cafe, where it's the topic of enthusiastic chatter and inquiry over coffee and cake.
Hawke's Bay next month joins the worldwide movement and hosts its first Death Cafe.
The idea was hatched by Nick Robertson and others at Gentle Touch Funeral Services in Hastings. Nick started as an administrator at the funeral home just two months ago and was struck by the lack of general knowledge about what happens when someone dies.
While Nick has not attended a Death Cafe herself, she has been following their success overseas and in New Zealand.
Other Death Cafes have been held in Nelson, Auckland, Tauranga and Wellington.
The movement was born in Britain in 2011, and is based on the work of Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz. According to the Death Cafe website there have been 4588 Death Cafes held in 49 countries since September 2011. The movement's objective is "to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their lives'
The first 'cafe' will be held at Gentle Touch, on Heretaunga Street, on June 15 from 6-9pm.
Wary that cynics may see the event as a pitch for business, Robertson said "it most certainly won't be".
"We're very conscious of that, and I can only assure people that the motivation is community awareness. We don't see it that way at all. We're a host. It's not about us," she said.
"We are just the venue. Obviously we are very comfortable talking about the subject, and when you think about it it actually makes sense to hold it in a funeral home. We see it day in, day out, and we do have quite a bit of knowledge of the subject," Robertson said.
"If the first evening goes well it is something we will look to continue. It's something we really feel passionate about, and it's something we feel shouldn't be swept under the carpet and not discussed," she said.
Attendees can help themselves to free tea and coffee and a piece of cake.
"They can stay five minutes, or the whole three hours. It's completely up to them. It's not formal. People won't have to talk, and we won't be giving lectures. It'll be like a coffee group where you can discuss things that don't normally get discussed," she said.
"Everyone is welcome. You don't have to be sick or old. You could be anyone curious in what happens at that end of their life. We've had young people who are very keen, because there are questions they'd like to ask".
"Death does raise all sorts of questions, like 'what happens if I'm cremated?', or 'do I have to have a funeral service?'," she said.
"We're hoping for a good turn out, but you never know with these things," she said.
Entry is by gold coin donation to St John Ambulance.