Colette M. Jenkins

Lorie Lerner and Jeffrey Vidt plan to sit down tonight over a cup of coffee or tea and a tasty treat and chat about death.

“We simply want to stimulate a conversation about a subject nobody wants to talk about,” said Lerner, who, along with Vidt, serves as a chaplain at Crossroads Hospice. “We want to get the subject out there and create an open forum where people can talk and formulate their own minds.”

The session will be with people who show up for the Akron area’s first Death Cafe.

Death Cafes, which began showing up in the United States during the last year, are offshoots of the “cafe mortel” movement that started in Switzerland and France about 10 years ago.

Lerner and Vidt are quick to explain they are not bereavement or grief support groups or end-of-life planning sessions.

“It’s a casual forum where people can come together and raise their cultural awareness of death so that it can inform the way they live,” Vidt said. “It’s like having a conversation over dinner. It won’t be doom and gloom. It will focus on how people can better live their lives.”

While the questions and topics of each Death Cafe is unique to those in attendance, they tend to explore things like how death informs the way people live, how experiences with death have impacted people lives and why people fear death.

The goal of the cafe is to “increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their [finite] lives” (www.deathcafe.com).

Death Cafe gatherings are confidential and not-for-profit. Guiding principles are that participants respect one another’s beliefs and avoid proselytizing. As chaplains, Vidt and Lerner, both ordained ministers, interact with and serve people from all faith communities and those who do not associate themselves with a faith tradition.

Tonight’s Death Cafe is scheduled for 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the parlor at Catavolos Funeral Home, 3653 W. Market St., Fairlawn. A second gathering is planned for 6 p.m. July 30 in the community room at Buehler’s Fresh Foods, 3688 Center Road, Brunswick.

“We will see what the response is from the people who show up and determine whether we need to plan a regular schedule,” Lerner said.

For more information about the Death Cafes sponsored by Crossroads Hospice (located locally in Green), go to www.facebook.com/DeathCafesAkronChapter, call 330-776-3281 or email Lorie.Lerner@crossroadshospice.com.

Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or cjenkins@thebeaconjournal.com. She can be followed at www.twitter.com/ColetteMJenkins.