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  • 20 Aug 2014

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Death Café aims to ease concerns about death

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - People relax, drink tea, eat cake and talk about death at Death Café. The are no boundaries for what people can talk about.In a classic episode of “Cheers” know-it-all mailman Cliff Clavin somehow gets involved in a conversation about death. Usually he revels in a chance to show his ignorance. But he does not like this discussion at all because he has a very elderly mother.

Things become so overwhelming for the poor guy that he suddenly bolts from the bar, screaming, “Ma ain’t gonna die!”

When it comes to death, we are a nation of Clavins. We aren’t all as foolish as he is, but we have the same dread of death and the fear of actually even talking about it.

But it does not have to be that way.

Death Café will be held at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center on Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. The title is intimidating. It sounds like the latest horror movie to hit town. But this Death Café will enlighten you and comfort you. All of the questions you wanted to ask about death but were afraid to ask will finally be answered. Melissa Coe of Lake Oswego will serve as the guiding light for the event, and she promises to provide just the right atmosphere to deal with such a forbidding subject.

“The premise of Death Café is to provide a safe environment to sit down in a relaxed atmosphere in which it is easy to share,” Coe said. “The ACC is a vital place that has many intelligent people. They can finally find the relief they need in talking about death.” Melissa Coe

The event could almost be called “Death Party.” Folks will be sitting down at a table together, eating cake and drinking coffee, tea and lemonade.

But the main item on the Death Café menu is talk.

“The conversation will get deep and also irreverent,” Coe said. “People can explore, question and talk without being censored. They won’t be told how to think.”

“It’s an open, safe discussion about a subject we don’t discuss much,” said Ann Adrian, manager of the LOACC. “Melissa will be our expert. She’s a heckuva woman.”

Adrian is so excited about Death Café coming to Lake Oswego that she will bake a hummingbird cake for the occasion. It is a delicious Southern style of cake full of fruit, nuts and spices that is sure to make people talkative.

Adrian also played a key role in the strange chain of events that brought the Death Café to Lake Oswego. It first came to the attention to Coe, founder of Melissa Coe Ceremonies. Funerals, memorials and life-cycle celebrations are areas within her expertise. Her interest was sparked when Death Café founder Jon Underwood, a native of Great Britain, came to the United States. That eventually led Coe to attend a Death Café on a brutally hot September day in Portland. Her expectations were modest.

“The Death Cafés I had heard about had drawn only about 10 to 15 people,” Coe said.

Instead, 75 people flocked to the Death Café — “Plus, we had a waiting list,” Coe said.

Coe noted that a big reason for this Death Café success was that “Portland is very weird.” But the event finally provided a great way to finally talk about death. Word quickly spread, and when ACC member Norma Heyser suggested to Adrian that a Death Café be brought to the ACC, she was ready to listen. Attending such a cafe at TaborSpace in Portland proved to be a milestone for Adrian, who has worked with elder citizens almost her entire life.

“I talked about things I hadn’t talked about in a long time,” Adrian said. “It turned out to be a defining moment for me because two of my classmates at my school in Ohio had recently died. I already knew that our time on earth is short and finite.

“I asked myself, ‘What should I do with the rest of my life?’ That was the energizing part for me.”

Holly Pruett, who has organized several Death Cafés, will be on hand to direct the event in Lake Oswego. Assisting Adrian and Coe will be ACC members Heyser, Mary Lansing and Marylhurst University student Emily Lemons, who is 20 years old. Death Café has no barriers, including the ages of people who attend.

“We’ve had people as young as 18 attend a Death Café,” Coe said.

People planning to attend Death Café are asked to RSVP by calling Adrian at 503-635-3758 or emailing her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The adult community center is located at 505 G Ave. The event will be held in the Oak Room.

Cliff Newell can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 105.