Philly cafe offers a cup of coffee, some cake, and frank conversations about death

     (Emma Lee/for NewsWorks)

    (Emma Lee/for NewsWorks)

    Death tends to be a taboo topic at social events because it’s considered a downer. At a Philadelphia gathering Monday evening, however, death and dying will be front and center.

    “Coffee, cake, and talk about death” that’s how organizer Simcha Raphael sums up the “death cafe.” “That’s it, period, it’s not covered up, there’s no euphemisms around it.”

    The death cafes are happening all over the country and are proving very popular, said Raphael, a psychotherapist and death awareness educator.

    People sign up online, gather at a cafe, sit in groups of four — and start talking. Sometimes there are quotes on the table to discuss, or pieces of paper with some questions on them. Raphael says death cafes tend to attract a diverse audience.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    “All of these people, from young people to gray heads and gray beards, I noticed some people who had their heads covered because they are going through chemo,” he said. “Everybody is engaged with each other, and people are laughing and smiling and … talking about death!”

    Participants sometimes cry, but that’s all right, he said, because the point is to accept death as a part of life.

    Death cafes offer an opportunity to discuss important issues around the end of life, Raphael said. They allow people to share memories of loved ones who have died, and discuss fears about their own death.

    The death cafe takes place Monday evening at 6:30 at Saxbys, 4000 Locust Walk, West Philadelphia.


    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal