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Canmore Death Cafe aims to reduce taboo of loss, inspire mindfulness

Death can be an uncomfortable topic, so some residents in Canmore are hosting Death Cafes to give the public a safe space to talk about the shared experience that connects us all.

'Death just makes us more aware that we need to be living our lives fuller,' says organizer

The community in Canmore has been hosting Death Cafes to encourage people to recognize death and make the most of their lives. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Death can be an uncomfortable topic, and yet it's a shared experience that connects us all. 

So some Canmore, Alta., residents have been hosting Death Cafes to give the public a safe space to talk about death.  

"We try to keep [death] behind doors in the hospital, and keep our kids protected from it," said organizer Bonnie Hamilton.

"The Death Cafe is just a way of trying to remove those barriers and make it a less taboo subject."

Hamilton said that recognizing death reminds us to live in the moment. 

"There's nothing that stops you in your tracks like a death," she said. "Death just makes us more aware that we need to be living our lives fuller."

'It's made me a lot kinder'

Over the past year, Charla Tomlinson has been touched by death more than a few times, but said there's never been an appropriate time to talk about her loss. 

"You can't just really be at a dinner party and be like, 'So that person's not here anymore,'" she said. 

"I think people are probably afraid of it, or afraid of saying something wrong, so they say nothing."

'I find that showing a little vulnerability to people makes people more human,' says Charla Tomlinson. (Mike Symington/CBC)

At the most recent Death Cafe, Tomlinson said she recognized many people from her small town of 12,000. 

"It's an interesting way to remember that everyone is dealing with their own stuff," she said. 

She said her experiences with death have changed the way she approaches life. 

"It's made me a lot kinder. I wouldn't want someone's last memory to be something even neutral. I'd rather have them remember happiness all the time."

With files from Mike Symington

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