Health & Wellness

‘Conversation Café’ in Westfield Makes Death a Dinner Party Topic

Imagine's program director, Mandi Zucker (second from left), called the Converation Cafe a "safe space" for what's usually a difficult discussion. Credits: Jackie Lieberman
Mary Robinson, Imagine’s executive director and founder, holds up the game "My Gift of Grace." Credits: Jackie Lieberman
Participants read from "My Gift of Grace" cards and took turns answering questions about death and life. Credits: Jill D'Ambrosio

WESTFIELD, NJ — Would you attend a dinner party where the topic of conversation was planning for the end of your life? Fifty-five people did just that Friday night during a “Conversation Café” at Mulberry House, hosted by Imagine, a Center for Coping with Loss and sponsored by Atlantic Health System, Summit Medical Group, Bradley & Son Funeral Homes and The Action Mill, creators of a conversation-sparking game called My Gift of Grace.

Guests that evening — some who came with friends or family, some who came to share with strangers — read questions from My Gift of Grace’s cards. Questions included, “Think of the last time you got angry at someone you loved. What did you do?” “What three non-medical facts should your doctor know about you?” and “If only one story is told at your memorial service, who should tell it?”

“The idea is to talk about and help people think about the end of your life. They say that planning for the end of life helps you have less stress and live longer,” said Mary Robinson, Imagine’s executive director and founder.

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“I think it’s raised some questions that we haven’t thought about yet, and that’s probably a good thing,” said Michael Saxon, a participant that evening.

It wasn’t all hard questions, either. According to Shari Holtzman, the Conversation Café felt like game night.

“It’s funny and fun,” said Holtzman. “I think there are some things we definitely have to talk about now.”

Dana Richder enjoyed learning the different ways that people at  her table reacted to the questions, and the different ways they interpreted them.

“I also think it’s interesting to see what makes people uncomfortable and what people seem to wholeheartedly agree upon,” said Richder.

Mandi Zucker, program director for Imagine, was thrilled that the event sold out.

“People seem very interested in having a conversation that they can’t have at home, and we’re so happy to provide a safe space for them," Zucker said.

In addition to an enlightening evening, Robinson said guests enjoyed Mulberry House and “just how delicious this food is. They really did a great job.”

All participants will enjoy a free week at the Westfield Area Y.

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