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Death Becomes them

An online social gathering shines light at the end of the tunnel

Author Hannah Stuart-Leach Illustration Peter Oumanski


LONDON – Two years ago, a Londoner named Jon Underwood hosted a gathering in the basement of his home. The event involved cake, tea and a friendly chat about how we’re all going to die. The so-called Death Café has since snowballed into a global social franchise, with facilitators leading similar discussions about the inevitable end in venues ranging from yurts to concert halls.  

Now, to mark the occasion of the 100th meeting, Underwood has invited his followers to ponder life’s eternal mystery via video conference. Holistic therapist Eveian Salmon is one of the first to enter this new territory. From her living room in London, she appears on Skype at midday, bright and breezy in front of a shoji screen, and quickly launches into the matter at hand.

“I’m always interested in talking about death,” she chirps. She produces a newspaper with the headline “Hot Summers Could Turn London into Isle of Death.” Then, having lost none of her pep, she chimes in with a question: “So, how long would you like to live?” Following a brief interlude of um-ing and ah-ing, the participants settle on 80.

So it goes for the duration of the hour-long call. There’s cake and the passing of Margaret Thatcher, tea and the possibility of an afterlife.

“While we’re here on this Earth, you know, we should appreciate it,” Salmon says at the end, sunlight streaming through the window behind her. “You might be living now, but tomorrow you might not, so make the most of everything.”

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