MANITOWANING—Debajehmujig Storytellers hosted its first Death Café on September 18 at The Debajehmujig Creation Centre in Manitowaning.

The objective of the free event, according to Debajehmujig Storytellers, was “to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their lives and provide thoughtful opportunity for dialogue about end of life care” as well as to “foster discussion and to share stories rather than (to be) a grief support or counseling session.” The event began with food and refreshments in an effort “to help facilitate comfort, sharing and normalizing a difficult, but not morbid topic that will eventually impact everyone.”

David Osawabine opened up the evening with a discussion about traditional Anishinaabe perspectives on spirituality, death and dying. He shared a number of teachings, including the seven values that the Anishinaabek apply to all of creation: the seven stages of life; and teachings on denial, acceptance, and forgiveness in order that we can “take a look at how we live our lives, how we treat people, and how we treat creation itself.”

Mr. Osawabine pointed out that the perspectives and teachings were not being presented as the only ways of understanding but as examples and respectfully acknowledged that different cultures and religions may hold similar or different views and teachings.

After sharing these teachings, and a few personal stories of his experience with the death of loved ones, he invited others to share stories, however, the audience seemed more interested in hearing more of Mr. Osawabine’s stories and teachings rather than sharing their own so they asked questions and opened themselves to learning more of his teachings, which he graciously shared.

David Osawabine speaks on traditional Anishinaabe perspectives on spirituality, death and dying.
photos by Giselle Aiabens

Mr. Osawabine’s opening was followed by “An Evening of Grief and Mystery” featuring renowned author and speaker Steven Jenkinson and musician and creator Gregory Hoskins. Adam Hay (drums, vocals) and Lisa Hodgson (keys, vocals) who have been touring with Jenkinson and Hoskins accompanied the two onstage.

An Evening of Grief and Mystery, best described on Mr. Jenkinson’s Orphan Wisdom website as “part poetry, part lamentation, part book reading, part ribaldry, part concert, part lifting the mortal veil and learning the mysteries there…” was an enchanting and mesmerizing two hour event filled with beautifully captivating music and insightful passages from Mr. Jenkinson’s two books ‘Die Wise and Come of Age.’ Mr. Jenkinson’s delivery of the passages was a little mysterious, occasionally humourous and always engaging.

The standing room only event was sponsored by the Manitoulin Island Clinical Teachers Association – Local Education Group (MICTA), an association of medical professionals dedicated to clinical education and high quality wholistic health care for the residents of Manitoulin Island.