As dinner invitations go, this is probably one of the more intriguing ones.
During the first week of the new year, two nonprofit groups, one based in Massachusetts, the other in Washington state, are sponsoring a national gathering that urges people to sit down with loved ones, perhaps have plenty of comfort food handy, and...discuss death.
To be more precise, the online campaign, called “Let’s have dinner and talk about death,” invites participants to host their own gatherings between Jan. 1 and Jan. 7 with family, friends, even co-workers, to discuss how they want to live the last days of their lives.
The campaign’s website includes a step-by-step plan for organizing the event, including suggested articles and videos for conversation ice-breakers.
“What we’re trying to do is energize a whole lot of people, to understand this is not a scary conversation,” said Ellen Goodman, project co-founder and a former Boston Globe columnist.
In 2012, Goodman launched The Conversation Project, a national campaign aimed at helping spur discussions among families and friends about how they want to live life at the end, so that their wishes will be followed.
But death and dying are not subjects that come easily to Americans.
A recent study commissioned by The Conversation Project found that ninety-four percent of those queried said it was important to have a conversation with their loved ones about their wishes for end-of-life care, yet fewer than a third have actually held such discussions.
“How do you close the gap?” Goodman said. “Maybe a lot of people have this on their New Year’s resolution list, you know, get stuff in order, lose 10 pounds, and talk about [end of life wishes.]”
The Conversation Project, which has advocated for informal discussions around family gatherings, teamed up with creators of a similar program, launched last spring at the University of Washington, called Death over Dinner, for their new national dinner invitation.
Goodman said that about 4,000 people have signed up to hold dinners during the first week of January, including would-be hosts in Boston, New York, Arizona and Washington.
It turns out that people around the country have differing ideas about the best comfort food to serve at these events, from macaroni and cheese to meat loaf.
“What we found is that a lot of people are serving their favorite recipes of people they have loved and lost, from their moms, their parents and grandparents,” Goodman said. “I think when we do it again, we may actually have a recipe book.”