This book will help you talk about death with loved ones

There’s plenty of food for all.

You can see that, and it smells delicious. Your dinner companions are strangers no more, especially since you’ve had plenty of get-to-know-you time and you’ve gotten your nervousness out of the way. And then your host begins the evening; as in “Let’s Talk About Death (Over Dinner)” by Michael Hebb, it’ll be an enlightening meal.

After “more than one hundred thousand” dinner conversations held world-wide on behalf of his organization Death Over Dinner, founder Michael Hebb is touched by stories he’s heard. Touched and bothered.

Death is something each of us will face; the human mortality rate, Hebb reminds us, is 100 percent, but we don’t like to discuss it with ourselves, our loved ones or with anyone. Even doctors seem reluctant to talk about it, though it’s an essential topic. Hebb’s dinner parties, and those like them, are changing that and bestowing gifts “one conversation at a time.”

Studies show that “open conversation… about your end-of-life wishes results in better care, less suffering and a longer life.” It’s a discussion that can (and should) happen at any time, to ease concerns on both sides of the table. Such talks also tend to take the fear out of a subject that we often prefer not to ponder, they can heal rifts that may have risen through the years and they can be “liberating.”

Having your own Death Over Dinner gathering is easy enough but preparation is key. Be clear and casual in your invitation and don’t “pounce on someone;” make sure attendees all know that a non-gruesome adult discussion about death will be involved. Don’t worry too much about the menu or the venue. Remember that you, as host, “are planting seeds.”

And then be ready. Here, Hebb includes many conversation-sparking questions to get Death Over Dinner hosts started: What foods did you share with your departed loved one? What kind of memorial would you have for him or her? Do you think there’s such a thing as too much end-of-life care? How would you like your own funeral to be?

This time of year, when you’re heading into the holidays, a dinner party about mortality seems all kinds of wrong. But then again, you haven’t yet read “Let’s Talk About Death (Over Dinner)”.

Yes, indeed, a sit-down party exclusively for death-talk may seem unseasonably morbid but once you see what author Michael Hebb espouses, you’ll change your mind. Just dip your toes into the stories Hebb shares and see how a discussion of death can feel like a discussion of any other life milestone. Note how these stories gently push discomfort aside, easing fears and replacing them with an understanding for the need of calm conversation.

Even if you don’t want to host your own little soirée, this book will help you have “that talk” with your loved ones, especially after you see the benefits of doing so. At the very least, “Let’s Talk About Death (Over Dinner) will open your mind with plenty of food for thought.

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Curtis Stone is a Michelin Star chef, restaurateur, author and media personality. He began his cooking career in his homeland of Australia and later honed his skills at Michelin starred restaurants in London under renowned chef Marco Pierre White. COURTESY PHOTO
Award-winning chef and TV personality coming to Southcenter

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