Death. It's not some we like to talk about with great enthusiusm. But sadly it happens to us all and perhaps it's time we changed our thinking towards it? That's the theory behind a new Death Cafe that's started in Rotorua, where locals get the chance to sit down with those who deal with death every day and nut out some details and finer points for when their time eventually comes. Reporter Cira Olivier heads along to the Death Cafe and finds out what the chatter was about and talks to locals about their plans for when they die.
You know something is up when a funeral home is buzzing, filled with laughter, cake, sandwiches and strong coffee.
A small room at the funeral home was transformed into a Death Cafe today with about 40 people munching on baked goods, talking about the ins and outs of what happens when we die.
Qualified and registered funeral directors, embalmers, celebrants, Hospice staff and grief counsellors were floating, answering what they could
Death Cafe is a global concept founded by Jon Underwood, based on the work of Bernard Crettaz.
Funeral director Richard Fullard said the objective was not to be seen as morbid, but rather for people to come, drink tea, eat cake and to "increase awareness of death with a view of helping people make the most of their (finite) lives".
Director Sam Osborne sat and spoke with a pregnant woman about the death of her father who died six months ago.
She was looking for a group of people to speak openly to about death, especially with people who saw it every day.
Osbourne said this was what the cafe was all about, talking about death in a "free-form" style but many were using the cafe to get information about finances.
And just like the tea, the conversations were flowing.
Sam Cook is 78 and although he has no plans on dying any time soon, knows exactly what he wants.
"Nothing elaborate, simplicity itself," he said.
"If I could, I would be taken to the crematorium strapped to a plank and wrapped in plastic, but I have to have a coffin."
So he is going to make his own coffin and has already been to Bunnings Warehouse to look at supplies.
Cook wants something "as cheap as possible" which means no embalming and no extravagant service.
"Once my body's dead it's no use to me."
The Christian man was not scared of death, it was more not knowing the way he would die. Something he hoped would not be drawn out with suffering.
"Death is the gateway to eternity," Cook said.
A DIY coffin might be out the question for Raewyn Small, 73, and Ian Keith, 76, but there will be absolutely no open casket and no big shindig.
If their family wanted to, they could have a morning tea after they were cremated.
The pair said funerals were just a chance for some people to profess fake despair, something they "can't be bothered with," Keith said.
"Funerals can be so false," Small said.
The pair felt honoured to live to their age, and Small said she was over the moon when she clocked 60 years around the sun.
Talking about death was not something they found uncomfortable and would often have general conversations about the topic. But both are fit and well and looked forward to seeing what age they managed to hit.
Dianne Pye works at the Kiwi Coffin Club and was standing near the assortment of the muffins, joining the constant flow of people there to talk to about the afterlife.
Also deeply involved in the industry of death, Pye said there was a stigma around those who worked with death - "they're not ghouls," she laughed.
Many people would come in and design their coffin and her role involved lining the coffins with whatever was requested. From the wacky to the more traditional.
"The latest was a sack, the coffin was lined with just a sack," she said.
Very much at peace with her own mortality, she had already designed her coffin, something she said all her colleagues at the coffin club had done too.
"It's going to happen, it's about getting your mind around it," she said.
While they tried to make the experience of choosing a person's death bed as comfortable as possible, she said people came at a range of stages of acceptance.
Working with those distraught about the approaching day or loved ones of those who passed away was sometimes sad, she said, but this was helped knowing she was able to make a difference.
"It's helping someone else . . . you go along with them," she said.