Interview: Kit Racette of Montréal Death Cafés

This week, TalkDeath was lucky enough to get in touch with the woman behind Montréal Death Cafés: Kit Racette. Following the death of her daughter in 2007, Racette became deeply invested in helping to organize positive spaces where individuals could meet to discuss death, dying, grief, and everything in-between. Finding this kind of environment in the worldwide Death Café community, Racette has helped organize these café-based discussions in her native Montréal, Canada ever since!

 When my daughter died suddenly in 2007, I had had no experience of death and the loss of someone I loved. 

1. Tell us about yourself and your background. Kit 1

K: If you were to ask me what I would like people to know about me... I am in the third time of life - the time devoted to wisdom and peace and giving back. I am driven by the need to help people with their struggles, and to bring them support and love so they can find their way forward. I have had a full life, living in many different areas of the world and experiencing my share of ups and downs. The ups - my two children, and now five grandchildren, lots of travel, a long term relationship with my husband Paul (40 years) and basically good health. The downs - the most significant [being] the death of my daughter, but I have experienced years of depression, [and the] loss of friends as we moved around...

2. For those who don’t know, what is a Death Café?

K: Death Café is a world wide organization devoted to providing opportunities for people of all backgrounds to talk about death and dying. All Death Café events are organized by volunteers and are free of charge - and at all events there is cake to eat and tea to drink. If you look at the website www.deathcafe.com you will see it was founded by Jon Underwood in England, and there have now been more than 2000 Death Café events in more than 26 countries.

 Death is also seen as a defeat by the medical profession, so we don't prepare for it in our every day lives. Death is not seen as a part of life. 

3. Why do you feel they are important?

K: There is a taboo about talking about death and dying in our culture. Our relationship to death has changed now that most deaths take place in hospitals and under the direction of the medical profession. Thus death has become sanitized. Death is also seen as a defeat by the medical profession, so we don't prepare for it in our every day lives. Death is not seen as a part of life.

4. How and why did you become involved with Death Cafés?

K: When my daughter died suddenly in 2007, I had had no experience of death and the loss of some one I loved. I had to find my own way to come to terms with her death. I found other people didn't want to talk about her and the fact that she had died. And then I found that this was general - death makes people feel uncomfortable and people don't like uncomfortable feelings. There is also more to death than just the death of others - we need to realize that we are going to die. So when I founded Death Café in the summer 2013, I thought this was a great vehicle for bringing people together to talk on all the different aspects of death and dying.

5. In your experience, who tends to participate in Death Cafés and why? Death Cafe

K: There are basically three reasons for people coming - 1. some one they love has died and they want to share that experience, 2. they are concerned about their own death and want to explore that, 3. they have had an interest in death, sometimes since they were young and they want to talk about it. I have had people who have had near death experiences who cannot talk about this with any one else, and there have been people who work in palliative care who want to talk about death from a philosophical point of view.

6. How do you feel that you have personally benefitted from participating in and helping to organize these events?

K: I realize that I thrive on connecting people, and Death Café events satisfy that need. I have also been so touched by the courage of attendees to share their stories. One evening a lady who knew she had only weeks to live came with her husband - I will never forget her! She talked about the preparation she was doing for her death and how she was preparing her husband for life after. She died the next week. I never know who will come and who I will have the pleasure of meeting. Organising these events is very gratifying. I am grateful that I can do this.
  One evening a lady who knew she had only weeks to live came with her husband - I will never forget her! She talked about the preparation she was doing for her death... She died the next week. 

7. What has been the response to Death Cafés in Montréal?

K: I have been organizing events since October 2013 most months in both languages. As I say, I never know who will come and what we will talk about. I do not have an agenda and the discussion arises from what the participants want to talk about.  Some nights we have intimate groups of 6, other times we can be 25. What I am now trying to do is build on the interest. Many people come once or twice and then not again. I am now organizing with the help of Marie France Privyk a more extensive programme of film evenings, book groups, discussion groups with particular subjects and evenings with presenters. I want to expand the ways in which we can come together around the subject of death and dying. 

8. How can one participate and become involved in Death Cafés?

K: The world wide website Welcome to Death Cafe lists all Death Café events around the world. You can find the events here in Montreal. Also if you send me an email at kitracette@yahoo.com, I will add your name to my mailing list and you will receive an invitation by email. Also, you can join our Meetup group Death Café and Beyond... et plus encore... Montréal! There we post all our events, including the extended programme I mentioned before. Furthermore, if you have a group that you think would like to experience a Death Café discussion, let me know. I am always willing to facilitate such discussions.
If you would like to learn more about Kit's work with Death Cafés, click here for further information!

Posted by TalkDeath

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