How can someone change his life quickly

"Compared to life, we cannot change anything about death"

Kanti student Aurel Berger, in the midst of older discussion participants, does not dare to interfere in the discussion, but is concerned: «I have often asked myself whether something like coincidence exists at all, or whether everything has to come like this, How it comes."

For more than a year, Onko Plus has been organizing a so-called «Café mortel» together with the Forum for Death Culture. Recently, a 17-year-old pupil from the Wetzikon Cantonal School took part in the discussion round, which revolves around life, dying and death. This is his report in a slightly abbreviated form.

From Aurel Berger

It's only a few minutes from the train station to the Klus Park retirement center, but I still take the tram. I get off again. My steps get faster and faster than thick drops suddenly hit my face. A small, colorful Ferris wheel sticks me in the eye when I finally stand in the entrance hall of the old people's center. There I am welcomed happily and taken to the Fischlistube by Franz Ackermann, a bright room with tables, chairs and even an aquarium. Some elderly people hesitantly dare to sit down at a table. Others stay in the door and only enter the room at the request of Mr. Ackermann. The room gradually fills with serious, thoughtful as well as happy, expectant faces.

"Cafés mortels" like this already exist all over the world and have their origins in Neuchâtel. The motivation of founder Bernard Crettaz from Valais was to break a taboo. People should have an easier time recovering from blows of fate. In addition, they are no longer alone with their feelings and meet people with an open ear. In big cities like Berlin, London and New York people are already talking about death. But the idea has also met with great approval in smaller cities and villages in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In Switzerland you can find what you are looking for in Basel, Schaffhausen, Sargans, Winterthur, Zug and, for a year now, in Zurich too.

"You can clearly see how eternal life disappears when someone dies."
Monika Pfenninger, Forum for Culture of Death

Monika Pfenninger, who with Mr. Ackermann will lead today's discussion at Zurich's Klus Park retirement center, thinks it is important to her that it is not about a lecture or seminar, but about a free discussion. Everyone, old and young, is welcome to talk about life and death. When you talk about death, you live much more consciously, which is why the subject of life belongs in the conversation café, just like the subject of death, explains Ms. Pfenninger. At the tender age of five, she came into contact with death. She never wanted to let go of this topic and is still with her today. She felt the death of her 96-year-old neighbor and her husband in a peaceful and natural way. She accompanied them to their death and was deeply moved. The ephemeral and the eternal at the same time become conscious, and you can clearly see how eternal life is removed at death, she explains to me.

Your moderation partner Franz Ackermann was confronted with the death of his father at the age of 7. For him it was physically gone, but he still felt a connection to him. As he gradually approached the age of his father's death, he became more and more interested in the subject of death. As the manager of a nursing home, he experienced numerous dying moments. Ms. Pfenninger and Mr. Ackermann even shared the common calling to accompany the dying until they died as a couple.

Every second Wednesday of the month, those interested meet in the Fischlistube of the Kluspark old people's center. An average of 20 people come, including regular guests. A curious woman who lives in this home even swears to come to every occasion faithfully until the end of her life, because it fulfills her immensely. The guests are between 17 and 80 and mostly come because they are affected by death, have to deal with it again and again for work, or are simply curious.

As if the subject is none of my business

With all the old people, I feel like I don't belong here. As if this topic was none of my business. We are all affected by it, whether toddler or grandpa, homeless or multimillionaire. Because life is fleeting and can be over in the next second without warning. But what happens after that? - Nobody knows.

The fish list room is slowly calming down. The expectant pairs of eyes gradually all turn to Ms. Pfenninger. "Are you afraid of death?" Asks Frau Pfenninger. I look around. Except for the bubbling of the aquarium and the quiet rustling of the street, nothing can be heard. Nobody says anything that I perceive to be an expression of reflection. Suddenly the gentleman next to me says that it is too loud whether you can close the window. A little later someone else complained that he wasn't getting enough air and that the window should be opened again. I have the feeling that people are not comfortable with this because it is neither stuffy nor loud. People just have a hard time getting started.

"The deceased are not out of the window."
Participant conversation café

Suddenly a voice can be heard: “It hurts to die because the world is so beautiful: the forest, the mountains, flowers and butterflies. I will miss these joys. The unknown scares me. " A delicate woman's voice speaks up: “I'm not afraid, just respect. As long as the right people are there for me on my deathbed and make sure that I can cross the threshold consciously and without medication, I have no worries. " - "It is simply important to me that I do not die without a zest for life." - «And I believe that the deceased are not out of the window. The dead have a connection to us. You have a better overview and understand the interrelationships, not like we do. It must be nice to be dead and to be able to help the people on earth. " Now the discussion is really picking up speed. I look into the old faces that suddenly glow with energy. Another voice confirms: “I am firmly convinced that the spiritual world has a connection to us. The deceased help us with dreams, spontaneous ideas or lead us to the right person at the right time in the right place. We call it intuition, but I'm sure it is the spirit world. "

I'm getting more and more thoughtful, but I don't dare to take part in the conversation. I have often asked myself whether such a thing as coincidence even exists, or whether everything has to come as it does. Is that controlling someone or something to teach us what we don't yet know? Are we here to gain experience, to develop further and the spiritual world helps us? I find it incredibly exciting that nobody knows what happens after death. Each religion says something different, but everyone agrees that something special is happening. We are born with the first breath at birth and leave with the last breath. Is there an eternal cycle of growth and decay? Maybe it will go on somewhere somehow. We can be excited to see what happens after our last breath. Will we ever breathe again

"After death we prepare for rebirth."
Participant conversation cafe

A man with a soft voice is just adding, as if he had heard my thoughts: “I believe that after death we go through various stages and stations and prepare for our next human birth. Perfection is the goal. By this I mean that we can acquire absolute wisdom and free ourselves from our basic needs, such as eating and drinking. And even then we do not simply disappear, but also help our fellow human beings to achieve this perfection. " “In my opinion, this idea has Buddhist roots, except that it does not believe in rebirth as an animal. Humans are different from animals: Humans are creative and constantly develop. He was created in the image of God. "

I am very impressed with the way everyone reveals their opinion without criticizing the other person's views. Everyone listens and tries to understand. I am very touched to see that one after the other wishes to have their say. The ice has definitely broken, and now a man with only a few hairs on his head and a lot of plasters on his face wants attention. A smile runs through his face and he begins to speak. However, it is not good news, on the contrary: "My wife and I are seriously ill and will soon die." I see how relieved he is to announce this news to us. I'm not sure why he's so happy, but I think we took some of his fear of death away from him. Maybe it's not so bad for him if he can die with his wife.

Visit from beyond

I look to the right. My neighbor, who had previously taken note of everything in silence, suddenly becomes restless. With shining eyes, he begins to tell of his experience: “My father died early when I was a small child. I hardly knew him, the only thing I noticed was that my mother kept cursing him. So my memories weren't very positive. But recently I've been feeling his presence, and my heart always feels very warm. I'm not looking for him, he just comes. Now I got to know him better and got an impression of what he really is. I am very happy about these encounters. "

I am moved to have been entrusted with so many personal and fascinating things in such a short time. There is no other place where you can discuss so openly as here. You respect each other and are happy about any opinion. I see the joy of life in the faces of the old people and the relief to finally be able to share the pent-up feelings and questions. I have the feeling that it is very difficult to find open ears in a retirement home. However, the need to talk about emerging questions about death and feelings is incredibly great. Sometimes people still shy away a little, but then notice how good it is for them. When you realize that you will have to die at some point, you live much more consciously and try to enjoy every single moment.

Do not regret anything on your deathbed

Personally, I feel very fulfilled after this afternoon, even if no questions have been answered correctly. Thinking about it and discussing it is sufficient for the time being as an answer. I have noticed that I no longer want to know the answer to what happens after death. The only thing that worries me right now is how I'm going to die. It is important for me that I will not regret anything on my deathbed and that I have experienced everything that I longed for and dreamed of.

So I come to the conclusion that it makes sense to think about and talk about death every now and then. But it is even more important to deal with life in general and the here and now. Because compared to life, we cannot change anything about death.