“His attention makes me hear what I am saying more clearly.”  Neenah Ellis, If I Live to be 100.

At a recent gathering of folks across many walks of life, with varied beliefs, personal experiences, and many decades (25 to 65 years old), I witnessed the power of speaking your truth and truly being heard.

How was this possible?  How did it happen?  Very simply by sharing our deeply stirring life experiences: those moments, people, dreams and realizations that shaped our truth as it stands within us today. Yes there were tenders tears of memory, quiet moments of reflection, but also spontaneous laughter of recognition, and “I get it too.”

Folks were truly heard because those listening were listening with watchful attention.   And amazingly they hadn’t actually come to hear their truth.   Rather they came to hear others truth, and in that heard their own: incredibly powerful.  They came with a true sense of wanting to know what others have experienced, how they felt, and how they responded to the unfamiliar familiarity of death and dying.

There was connection, not in believing the same thing, and not even wanting to believe in the same thing.  But connection in knowing others too have had their truth shaped deeply by their own personal experiences and the guides in their lives – family, friends, religious and spiritual beliefs, death, losing, learning, loving and living.

We shared intimately about how we remember those so dear to us.  How we live differently now because of deaths we have experienced.  The importance of saying what we need to say now.  The importance of doing what we need to do now.  How it can be easier to speak of our own possible death, rather than the possible death of someone we deeply love. We can imagine our death; we cannot image theirs.

There was no judgment or decree “I can’t believe that” as folks shared.   Rather there was pause and acknowledgement for that person’s truth.  Followed by a, “for me it’s this way.”  No challenges, just bridges to better understanding, and in that, richer understanding of ourselves.

As we closed, we carried a great sense of appreciation that as strangers, we could sit for 2 hours and speak so intimately and truthfully from our hearts.   We took courage listening to others’ stories and how they found their way through.  What the life and death of someone important in their life taught them.  We openly thanked one another.

Where were we?   At a very humbling Death Café that clearly demonstrated the human thirst for connection, not in similarity, but rather in truth…each persons’ deepest truth.  The guidelines for a death café include:  1. being free from ideology – no one should lead others towards any conclusions about life, death or life after death, apart from their own thoughts.  2. Tolerance of others’ views.   3. Safe and nurturing.  4.  Confidential.  5.  All participate in the conversation as peers.

Editor’s Note:  Death Cafes are an international movement that started in 2011 in London, England.  For information and history of Death Cafés go to deathcafe.com. Friends of Hospice holds Death Cafés around the county at various locations and times throughout the year.  We create a safe and confidential space.  Check our website www.friendsofhospice.net, Facebook page www.facebook.com/friendsofhospice and deathcafe.com to register for our next Death Café.