On June 25th, Jon Underwood, one of the founders of Death Cafe, and an evangelist for frank discussions about death, passed due to acute promyelocytic leukaemia. He was 44 years old. I met Jon in 2016 at a talk I was giving in London. He was warm, kind, and supportive. We had a nice chat afterwards about the work of Ernst Becker and how I believe we can reconnect to a deeper understanding of death in our culture through approachable arts like fragrance. I so enjoyed interacting with him on Twitter and looked forward to possibly crossing paths again at another trip to the UK.
Jon and team did so much to bring the concept of a Death Cafe, first to the English-speaking world (the Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz organised the first Café Mortel in 2004), and then to the world at large. Jon codified guidelines and helped build templates that could be used by local groups from Idaho to Indonesia. Thousands of people sat down and talked about death over tea and cake because of his tireless work. There are now over 4,000 Death Cafes in 51 countries. He lived a purposeful and thoughtful life, devoted to service. The Death Positivity movement owes him an enormous debt of gratitude.
Jon’s family will be taking over his work spreading the conversations about death far and wide. I can think of no better way to honour his memory than to
- Attend a Death Cafe
- Start up a new Death Cafe
- Donate to Death Cafe’s Patreon to keep this fantastic organisation going
- Donate to support Jon’s kids
My deepest sympathies are with Jon’s family and friends at this time. I’ll update this post should any public memorials or events in Jon’s honour be planned.