Dining with death: Starting a conversation

by Mari Pizzini– Death can be a somber subject, but those that attended Morningside chaplain Andy Nelson’s “Death over Dinner” were anything but.

Eleven total students, professors, and community members joined in on the chat Wednesday night. Attendee Taylor Van Vliet described the conversation, held in Weikert Auditorium on February 5, 2020, as being “lively.”

Topics in the discussion ranged from grief and grieving to making and decorating coffins. Nelson first introduced the conversation to Morningside in November 2019 to start the almost year-long project.

To introduce the discussion, Religious Studies professor Elizabeth Coody said “grief makes you, you. You have a license to grieve whoever you want.”

Nelson followed by saying, “however you can, follow the lead of the person who is grieving… Let them express their feelings and don’t invalidate them,” Nelson finished.

Though Nelson has been leading dinners specifically for Morningsiders, the national organization has been supporting all different #deathdinners since 2013.

In a TED Talk Nelson had attendees watch, Katrina Spade, architect and death care advocate, said that “we’re all going to die.”

“If the idea of your mortality and death doesn’t get you down,” Spade continued, “the state of our funerality will.”

Each death dinner is designed to bring the topic of death to a casual place of discussion. Its taboo feeling has turned death and its conversation into something many fear. Death over Dinner is working to change that.

Nelson has said that he wants students at Morningside to become comfortable speaking about their own end-of-life decisions, in addition to those of their family and friends.

The next session of Death over Dinner will be held March 4th from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in Weikert Auditorium.

February 11, 2020