The University of La Verne’s interfaith organization, Common Ground, held a “Dialogue Dinner about Death” Wednesday night in the Hanawalt House.
Roughly 15 people sat around the table, shared a family style dinner and discussed their thoughts on death, nonexistence and their personal experiences with death.
“Death isn’t something we talk about, but we all have opinions on,” said Damairis Lao, president of the Common Ground club and a junior art and art history double major. “We don’t usually have the time to sit down and share a meal like we are right now but death is just one of those occasions that allows for it.”
From emotional to spiritual accounts, stories were shared as guests went around the table conversing how death was present in their personal lives and what brought each of them to the meeting.
Freshman psychology major Shyonta Glothon told the group about her experiences with her mother when she died from cancer. Before Glothon’s mother died, she told Glothon often that she would pass on. While Glothon understood this reality, it was not something she wanted to confront in conversation, she said. She said that after her mother’s death, she turned to her church community for comfort.
She also shared the story of turning to her friend and family’s church pastor.
“I feel really connected with people and their souls when they pass,” Glothon said. “The moment I stepped foot in that hospital to visit my pastor I immediately knew that I felt something, and the next night he passed and I felt it coming.”
The meeting touched on the topics of spirits and their relation to the alleged hauntings of ULV, and opinions of what happens after death. Kira Barros, doctorate student in clinical psychology, talked about death as a type of rest that awaits someone done with their life.
Other students said they interpret death not as a state of rest, but as a state of nonexistence.
“Trying to wrap your head around the concept of nonexistence is impossible,” freshman business major Tahna Dow said. “It’s hard to actually think about what it means to just not exist anymore.”
Students brought up different religious ideas of death. While some belief systems involved a heaven and hell, others involved reincarnation, ancestor worship, or even an utter lack of emphasis on the afterlife. Barros said that death is a major part of human psychology.
“The better grasp that I have of it, the better I can help patients who come into my office who are seeking help from death in their lives,” Barros said.
The Common Ground meetings are not only of interest to undergraduates of the University of La Verne but graduate and doctoral students as well.
“I came here to see what everyone’s views on death were. Getting these views from a group of diverse people is good for me,” Jonathan Dougherty, a doctoral student in clinical psychology said.
Madison Rubino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.