Weathering Grief

by Cheryl Jones

Archive for the month “November, 2013”

Death Cafe

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Sunday was a beautiful day in the Bay Area, and I headed out about 12:30 for the first Alameda Death Cafe, which a friend of mine was hosting. When I saw her announcement on Facebook, I was so excited, and forgot to censor myself in the days that followed. I was saying things like, “I can’t wait to go to the Death Cafe on Sunday!” Quite a few people (including some of my relatives) literally took a step back.

So when I got to the cafe and waited in line for some tea, I asked in a hushed tone, “Where is the Death Cafe.” The woman, smiling back at me, directed me to the backyard patio and up the stairs.

The person behind me in line said, “what is Death Cafe?!” She leaned forward, eager to hear and I told her that it was an international movement encouraging people to come together, drink tea, eat cake and talk about death. She was excited, and we talked for a few minutes about her work as a hospice nurse and mine on the radio show Good Grief. Then I headed upstairs. She headed off to some previous commitment, wishing she could stay instead.

For two hours, 20 of us talked about death, but is it really possible to talk about death without talking about life, and dying and love and what’s important? For me it isn’t, and that’s part of why I couldn’t wait to enter that room. I long for and savor conversations where we can talk about ANYTHING and really, if you start with death, nothing else is that hard to bring up.

So in December, I’ll look for the Death Cafe in Oakland, and probably go back to Alameda too, just to sit with people who want to talk about death, no other motive. And it will feed my soul, nourish me to go back to living and to facing death, with renewed energy.

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John Fitzgerald Kennedy

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

By Good Grief | November 23, 2013 at 03:01 AM EST | No Comments

 

JFKTen years old. We were in class and suddenly, all the adults were crying (they never had before) and we were sent home. I may remember it wrong, but I think I walked my seven year old brother to our house, our mother waiting for us there. I believe she was more upset than I’d ever seen her. Before that day, “president” was a vague concept, someone far away and mythic. After that day, the world was a dangerous place, where the guy in charge could be gunned down in a heartbeat.
I lived in Berkeley then, just before the Free Speech movement, which we would miss by months when my father’s work took us to Manhattan.
Manhattan, where we lived mere blocks from where Malcolm X was assassinated. And Martin Luther King, who my father met in prison and admired so much, one of the reasons he went South to march, to make the world a better place, to put his life on the line for justice. And Robert. F. Kennedy, getting back on the horse and losing his life.
When I was twenty or so, I wrote a slew of poems about grief, and I was mystified. Why was I writing about grief? My parents, my brother were alive, I had not lost anyone close to me.
Or had I? In that time, we were personal about our heroes. We got attached in a friend to friend way. Or was that just because I was a child, in my innocence believing those people far from me (and powerful) were good people and that everyone felt the same about them.
It may sound dramatic, but when Jack Kennedy died, my childhood came close to ending. That same year, I learned about the holocaust when a German friend of my parents who had been in the camps came to visit. The horror of it defied my understanding.
And so, today, I review the many changes in me since then, the center of my life being inextricably tied to its losses and gains, and I remember when I still had heroes, and I vow to have them again- imperfect, human, with their triumphs and mistakes, but heroes, all the same.

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