Death Cafe @ DPL

On September 12, 1:30 p.m. @ Ford-Warren Branch Library we’re launching a monthly DPL Death Cafe conversation group. At Death Cafes around the world people gather to discuss...death. The aim is to increase awareness of our feelings and ideas around death to help people make the most of their (finite) lives. Talking about death doesn't have to be taboo.

We spoke to our Death Cafe host Jamie Sarche, speaker and Director of Outreach and Prearranged Funeral Planning for Feldman Mortuary, to learn a bit more about her and her work. We hope you join us at Death Cafe!*

 

Jamie, tell us a little bit about your background, and how you got started talking about death.

I’ve always been really good at talking about the hard stuff. I was an AIDS educator in college. I was a peer counselor. When my friends were worried about being pregnant or having an STD, they turned to me for help. When my lifelong friend, Michele, was diagnosed with a glioblastoma, a brain tumor, when we were twenty-six. I realized that my comfort in talking about hard stuff was pretty unusual. At that time, a glioblastoma was always terminal. But it was really difficult for everyone to acknowledge that with Michele. They would give her pep talks telling her that she was young and strong and promising that she would beat the disease. I handled it very differently. I said, I can go with you into the hard stuff. I don’t have to tell you everything is going to be ok. And you don’t have to tell me everything is going to be ok. We both know it’s not going to be ok. When she died, I was grateful that we had those conversations. They brought us much closer, and they helped to accept her death with fewer regrets. I really believe that my experience with Michele led me to my calling: working at one of Denver’s oldest mortuaries, helping people put their funeral plans in place long before they are needed. I didn’t have a background in social work or psychology. When I heard about the job, I knew it was exactly what I was supposed to be doing. In doing my life’s work, I have become an evangelist for breaking down the taboos about death. In our society, we’re not supposed to talk about death. It’s morbid. It’s taboo. It’s in bad taste. Instead  we whisper that someone “passed away” or even just “passed.” We say they “fought valiantly but ultimately succumbed to their disease." Why are we so afraid to talk about the reality of our mortality?

Were you interested in death as a child? Were there any experiences, books, etc. that shaped your path?

I don’t know if I was interested in death, per se, but I was always interested in having deep and meaningful conversations about important stuff. My favorite books growing up were Harriet the Spy, The Great Gilly Hopkins, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I haven’t thought about it until now, but those books have themes of abandonment, loneliness, grief. I must have already been on this path then!

What is your favorite part of your job at the mortuary?

My favorite part of helping people put their funeral plans in place, helping them to provide a path of bereavement for the people who love them, is that when we are done with everything, they always lean back in their chair and say, “that was so much easier than I expected."

What are you hoping to do or share by helping host a Death Cafe at DPL?

We live in a world that says, don’t talk about death, don’t think about death. That’s not healthy. Aside from birth, death is the ONLY experience each of us will have. We need to learn to talk about it!

What's the best book you've read recently? Movie?

I loved Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk was fabulous too! I saw the movie The Farewell twice in a week!

Hear more about Jamie:

Breaking down the taboos about death | Jamie Sarche | TEDxCrestmoorParkWomen

Death Rituals: Creating Jewish Life |Jamie Sarche |ELI Talks

 

*Please note that Death Cafe is not a professional support group, but rather an informal gathering. For more information for those experience a crisis, please visit https://coloradocrisisservices.org/ , or call 1-844-493-8255, or text “TALK” to 38255.

Written by Jennifer D on September 4, 2019