iChongqing Title

Take A Sip, And Let's Talk About Death

By KENNY DONG|Sep 15,2023

Chongqing - A smothering wave of regret caught Guo Mengqi standing beside her uncle’s coffin. She took a deep bow and said goodbye to him, whom she barely saw over the past ten years, as she busied herself with a life far away from her hometown. 

“I kept asking myself how could this happen, why didn’t I spend more time with him,” Guo said. The painful feeling at the funeral, which still haunts her occasionally, is why she turned to the Death Cafe.

Death Cafe, an event founded in London, was introduced in Chongqing earlier this year as a non-profit get-together for participants to discuss death while enjoying food and drink. It is a relaxing occasion where people share stories, thoughts, experiences, and feelings about the heavy topic of death.

Death Cafe Chongqing has held seven events at Songshan Hospital in Liangjiang New Area. (Photo/Guo Shuyu)

Guo remembers the story that overturned her concept of death. It was a wedding ceremony at a cemetery, where the bride's father was buried. “She wanted her father to see the ceremony; it was beautiful,” Guo recalled. “The story made me realize that when we face death straightly, we can better understand how valuable life is and that we should live on and love.”

Talking about death is never an easy thing in Chinese tradition. “We are so happy about life, yet reluctant to mention death. By launching the event and carrying out death education in Chongqing, we hope to help people live without regrets and die with preparation,” said Wang Nan, the leading initiator of Death Cafe Chongqing.

Wang had a friend who suffered from chemotherapy and wished to live the past ten years all over again in a completely different way. “She was a very strong and successful woman with a good life before getting ill; surprisingly, she regretted so much,” Wang said. 

Wang added, “So I started to think, life is too short, and if we realize that death is just around the corner, perhaps we can see the meaning of life, thus live now and make everyday accounts.”

Death preparation helps with emotions and arrangements

Death preparation is another topic the project tries to address. Wang Xiaoyan, co-initiator of the project and a medical worker for 25 years, believes that medical workers should not only save lives but also care about the whole life process, including unavoidable death.

“In the ward, it is not just the patient fighting a disease; it is a whole family struggling,” said Wang Xiaoyan. “Death of a loved one can throw the relatives into a painful and disorienting situation, where they don’t know how to cope with the loss and grief. They are not prepared, given the lack of death education. Preparation for the last phase of life is something we want to deliver.”

Death Cafe has reached many people in Beijing and Shanghai, and Wang Xiaoyan hopes to encourage more people in Chongqing to join and think about life and death. 

“It might be a prolonged process, but it is something if each of our events can inspire one or two people. So far, we have seen more people interested and participating in the event,” Wang Xiaoyan said.

As a nurse herself, Guo used to cry a lot over the death of her patients. “Medical workers are supposed to be neutral, but sensitivity to death makes me respect life more and become a better nurse.”

“I still cry. But now, I can better process my feelings and help the grieving relatives with their emotions and arrangements. That is how the Death Cafe has changed me,” Guo said.

(This article was written by Guo Shuyu, Liangjiang New Area Media Center)


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