Death Cafe Brings Life into Discussion

By Agustin Garcia

Betsy Trapasso recalls a moment her friend, a police officer, talked about his experience while she hosted the first Death Café in Los Angeles.  At a crosswalk, her friend continued to work after responding to an incident involving a car colliding into an elderly woman with her daughter’s infant.  The grandmother lived; however, the baby was killed.

“How sad it was that he couldn’t even process the death, he had to go back to work,” said Trapasso.  “People don’t understand that if a cop pulls you over you don’t know that maybe 10 minutes ago he was with a dying baby.”

Trapasso was first introduced to Death Cafés by her friend Lizzy Miles, who held the first café in the nation. Lizzy Miles was inspired by Jon Underwood, who created the first Death Café in London. Trapasso found the cafes interesting because it allowed for the rich cultures of LA to fuse.

“I’ve worked all over LA helping the dying,  I love LA, all the different cultures, and all the food the families would give me when I go into the homes and help them die,” said Trapasso.

Businesses at first, wouldn’t rent space for her Death Café, due to how taboo and new the concept of discussing death was.  It wasn’t until LA Times covered the first café at her home that businesses and around 100 people began to show interest.

“Some people were just not understanding,” said Trapasso. “The people that really understood it, loved it.  You didn’t have to explain it to them. And I’m like ‘it’s not for everybody, it’s really not for everybody’ and I think that [since] death is kind of scary and they didn’t understand why you needed to have a café.”

She explains that at her Death Café there are no set agendas, speakers or topics. She limits her meetings to only 10 people because it allows for a more intimate interaction.

“So, we can really talk to each other and support each other and talk about whatever they want,” said Trapasso.  “I thought it as a beautiful thing to let people talk, who would not normally.”

Trapasso explains that she helps the client, their family with legal, financial affairs such as the cost and will.  While also consulting the client about their fears of dying and explains to their family the transitions a person dying will take.  This is to help ensure that the family will have peace of mind once their loved one passes away.

She also talks to the person about their fears of dying and explains how a dying person looks to help the family for support when their final breath leaves them and therefore could die in peace, said Trapasson.

“So, for dying you never know what you’re going to do because every family is different,” said Trapasso.  “It’s just a beautiful thing, you can have music playing, have the dying person in their home, the family come visit.  Dinner would make the people happy.”


Agustin Garcia