Cariboo Community Deathcaring Network’s Angela Gutzer (left) and Nicola Finch (centre) organize a Death Café at the Williams Lake Library. At the one held in February, they were joined by about 18 people, including Eric Schlitt (left), David Finch, Lisa Bland, Bob and Peggy McIntosh. The next one takes place on Wednesday, March 13 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

Death café explores the topic with ease and openness

Angela Gutzer and Nicola Finch bring compassion to the conversation

Death cafés in Williams Lake are taking on a life of their own.

Angela Gutzer and Nicola Finch, who head up the Cariboo Community Deathcaring Network, have set the tone for a welcoming atmosphere where people can speak openly.

During one held in February at the Williams Lake Library meeting room, about 20 people attended, all interested in talking about death and dying.

Some shared experiences about their parents dying and the grieving process.

Others talked about organizing all of their information so their children will know what needs to be done in terms of life insurance, funeral arrangements, burial arrangements, even who should inherit a certain item.

One woman brought the binder that she and her husband have been putting together for their children that she jokingly calls her “Now I’m Dead Binder.”

The death café attracted people from many different walks of life and varying ages and the conversation was so captivating there wasn’t even time for a formal coffee break, despite the fact there was a table filled with cookies, coffee and different kinds of tea to choose from.

Finch said the Cariboo Community Deathcaring Network is advocating for the inclusion of green or natural burials in the Williams Lake municipal cemetery and is assessing local interest to present the request to city council this spring.

Green burials are about allowing the body a natural return to the earth often in a simple pine box or wrapped in a shroud. There is no embalming, no metals and no grave liner.

Gutzer and Finch are planning other activities through the year which include a Hello Conversation Game evening on April 4 as a means to address some questions that come up around Advance Care Planning.

Gutzer has been a veterinarian for 11 years and Finch is a small business owner: she and her husband make custom jewelry — Touch Wood Rings.

Finch and Gutzer are both trained as death doulas.

“In a few words, a death doula provides non-medical care and support to the dying person and people who love them throughout the dying process and often beyond, guiding the family through a home funeral or assisting with the complexities of what’s next when someone we love had died,” Finch said.

With growing interest in this emerging field, Douglas College is offering an end-of life doula certificate training course in Williams Lake this July.

Finch and Gutzer are also organizing a local death festival on Oct. 19 in conjunction with Community Deathcare Canada’s first annual cross country Swan Song Festival.

The next death café will be held Wednesday, March 13 at the Williams Lake Library from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

“There will be coffee and conversation,” Finch said. “Talk about death and dying and leave feeling a bit more alive.”

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