ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – Steve Borbis, 71, isn’t afraid to talk about dying.
“I’m looking forward to death because it’s inevitable. It’s kind of like I’m looking forward to dinner, also,” Borbis said. “I’ve been in the U.S. Army and got shot at. So, consequently, I think about these things.”
Death is often considered a taboo topic, whether out of fear or to protect the feelings of loved ones.
“There are the ideas that, ‘If I talk about it, it’s going to happen,'” said Gail Rubin of Albuquerque.
However, at the Death Cafe, where a conversation about death over tea and cake is encouraged, there is more laughter than tears. The lighthearted conversation – usually discussing people’s philosophical ideas about what happens after death and their own out-of-body experiences – is why Rubin, the self-proclaimed “Doyenne of Death,” is spearheading the local Death Cafe movement.
Rubin hosts monthly meetings to get the conversation started in addition to her work with companies “to connect with baby boomers concerned about end-of-life issues,” according to her biography.
“If you go out the door and don’t come back, your loved ones are going to be left with a huge mess to deal with,” Rubin said, adding about 30 percent of people don’t do any end-of-life planning.
“Having these honest conversations really makes it liberating to talk about death and funeral plans and organizing your stuff,” Rubin said. “We need to be prepared now and that can be financially, talking about wills and trusts, advanced medical directives and pre-need funeral planning.”
People also talk about preparing spiritually, with a discussion about what might happen when people die.
“As [my] dad and I were talking [as he was dying], you see this ethereal coming from his body,” said a woman at Wednesday’s Death Cafe.
The premise may seem strange, but the cafes offer a chance to hear unique perspectives on the morbid topic and bring a little more ease to everyone.
Wednesday’s Death Cafe previews the larger “Before I Die ABQ” festival. The inaugural six-day event starts October 20 and will bring more than 20 activities around the city, including two death cafes, a trip to the historic Fairview Cemetery and a panel discussion where funeral directors can answer questions. View the full schedule and register for the events here.
Death Cafes began in the U.K. in 2010 and spread to the U.S. in 2013. Anyone can sign up to start cafes in their cities — they just need to find a venue for the meetings, often monthly and can find sponsors for larger events like Albuquerque’s Before I Die ABQ festival.