National Dinner Party to Dine and Discuss Death
The Conversation Project and Death Over Dinner Celebrate National Healthcare Decisions Day by breaking bread and taboos
April 16 through 22
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. & SEATTLE, Wash. | As the saying goes, there are two things in life you can’t avoid: Death and Taxes. After we file away our taxes with the IRS, we also need to organize and file away how we want to spend our final days.
April 16 marks National Healthcare Decisions Day, a day designed to educate and empower the public to make decisions about their wishes for end-of-life care. In celebration of the holiday, two like-minded organizations, The Conversation Project and Death Over Dinner, are teaming up for a week of inspired dinner parties where the taboo topic of death is the main course.
During the week of April 16-22, the nonprofits will challenge Americans to fill their table with comfort food, family, and friends and toast to life, honor loved ones lost and ensure that everyone’s wishes for end-of-life care are expressed and respected with dignity and compassion.
To whet the appetite for this conversation, the groups offer a delicious side dish: an e-cookbook, “The Endless Table,” recipes from departed loved ones, available for download for $8.99. Famous foodies like Tom Colicchio, Ina Garten, Ben Ford, Jasper White, Jody Adams, José Andrés, Roger Berkowitz, Michel Nischan and many more have donated a recipe in honor of a loved one, along with a personal story about why the dish they chose is personally meaningful. Proceeds of the e-cookbook will benefit both public engagement campaigns, The Conversation Project and Death Over Dinner.
Both organizations believe that conversations about end-of-life care shouldn’t start with doctors, insurance agents, or in intensive care units when people are overwhelmed. They should start with family and friends while breaking bread. The organizations will provide the tools, tips, and ice breakers to get the conversation started. Dinner party hosts choose the guests and the menu and let the wine and conversations flow.
“Memories and menus are bound together in our emotional makeup — whether it’s the hot dog at Fenway Park or the iconic turkey at Thanksgiving. We associate food with the people we love and those we have lost,” says Ellen Goodman, Pulitzer Prize Winning journalist and founder of The Conversation Project. “We hope people will celebrate life while talking about death. We know one conversation can make all the difference, and good food and wine can make any topic more palatable.”
Patrons who commit to hosting a dinner will be provided resources including The Conversation Project’s Starter Kit, a step-by-step guide developed to help people have “the conversation” about their preferences for end-of-life care. Other materials include suggested invitation copy, inspirational readings, homework for dinner guests, conversational prompts and important next steps after dinner is complete.
“We hope those who RSVP to our national dinner party remember their loved ones who have cooked for them by singing their praises and sharing their wisdom,” says Michael Hebb, founder of Death Over Dinner. “Let’s all have this conversation and delve deeply into what it means to feast together, living lives that people will celebrate after we have gone.” Death Over Dinner works to bring people to the dinner table to create social change with the idea that dinners result in action and profound relationships with participants.
This is the third consecutive national dinner party hosted by the nonprofits. The past two years garnered more than 3,000 dinners held throughout the U.S. during the campaign and drove more than 40,000 people to the organizations’ websites for more information and to download The Conversation Project’s Starter Kit.
Ninety percent of Americans say it’s important to talk about their end-of-life care wishes, yet 30 percent of people actually have that conversation. The goal of this weeklong dinner party is to change the nation’s culture from not talking about end-of-life care to talking about it – in thousands of kitchens, living rooms, coffee shops and restaurants across the country. For more information, or to register for a dinner, visit theconversationproject.org and deathoverdinner.org.
About The Conversation Project
The Conversation Project, co-founded by Pulitzer Prize-winner Ellen Goodman, launched in collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI,) and supported by Cambia Health Foundation, is a public engagement campaign with a goal that is both simple and transformative: to have every person’s end-of-life wishes expressed and respected. Too many people die in a manner they would not choose and too many of their loved ones are left feeling bereaved, guilty, and uncertain. The Conversation Project offers people the tools, guidance, and resources they need to process their final desires for their life and begin talking with their loved ones, in a comfortable setting, about their wishes and preferences. Have you had The Conversation? Learn more at: www.theconversationproject.org.
About Death Over Dinner
In just two years Death Over Dinner has provided the framework and inspiration for over 100,000 dinners in 30 countries. Our simple model has powerfully impacted individual families and larger communities; catalyzing end of life conversations and motivating individuals to complete living wills and advance care directives. Each dinner includes invitation material, pre-dinner homework assignments, a comprehensive framework for the dinner discussion, and a clear set of follow-up steps. We are currently developing similar web platforms in Australia and Japan, and have begun work on a Jewish Edition, a Doctors and Nurses Edition, and a new project focused on Alzheimer’s patients and families. Deathoverdinner.org was developed at the University of Washington by Michael Hebb, Angel Grant, and the design firm Civilization.