This Coffin Reminded Me to Live Better

Oct 28, 2022

by Emily Orton


Have you ever heard of a death cafe? I read about them a few years ago in a free airplane magazine. Death cafes are like regular cafes except they feature an open coffin and an invitation to try it out.


The premise behind a death cafe is that pondering the inevitability of death over a cup of hot chocolate will stimulate deeper thoughts and conversations about how we spend our lives. 


Personally, I’ve found this to be true. I jumped at the chance to try out a coffin in Phoenix last weekend. 


Here’s the setup—I’m speaking at an event downtown. Afterward, I go for ice cream with my friends. I get jalapeño cheesecake and it is tangy good. Then I notice a full-size black coffin with the top portion open and a hand-lettered sign, “Try me.”


Is this a year-round attraction or a decorative stunt for Halloween or the Day of the Dead? I don’t know but I decide to go for it.


I tuck my legs into the covered portion of the coffin and recline on the thin upholstered foam padding the bottom of the coffin. There is so much space around me. 


I adjust my dress. If I were dead, I wouldn’t care if anyone saw up my dress but I’m only pretending. I rest my arms across my chest. Cliche.  Then adjust so my right hand is over my heart and my left hand is on my belly. I close my eyes behind my glasses. 


There’s nothing creepy about this. I’m in my own space. My own world. Separate from the world of ice cream eaters, late-night conversations, and first dates. I’m still - at rest. Even in those few moments, it’s glaringly obvious that when I depart, the world will go on without me.

This doesn’t minimize my existence. It emboldens me to care more about what I hope to create or contribute and care less about what others think of me.


For me, Steve Jobs nailed it in his 2005, Standford University commencement speech,

“Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”


People say when you die, your life flashes before your eyes like a movie. That didn’t happen when I tried out the coffin but I hope it’s true. 


When my turn comes, I want mine to be a rom-com family adventure. I think I’m about halfway through and it’s coming along. There is already romance and reversals, hurt feelings, and inside jokes that make me laugh so hard, I snort. Broken bones and mended hearts. Sailing through storms and pods of dolphins. Rock climbing and reading aloud way past bedtime. Gathering around the dinner table for lentil soup and homemade bread. Circling up on our knees in fasting and prayer over problems we just can’t solve on our own. And way more animals than I ever imagined possible!


And I’m only halfway through (knock on wood).


I want the movie that flashes before your eyes to be a good one, too. Filled with the relationships, reversals, growth, and adventures that are most satisfying for you and your family.


We connect most deeply when we go through something together—when we grow together. 


With this perspective, adventure becomes so much more than a flashy vacation flex on social media. Adventure is a vehicle for personal growth, strengthening marriages, and super bonding families.


That’s why The Awesome Factory will be offering Family Adventure Coaching starting in Jan 2023. 


Our mission—and we’re uniquely qualified to do it—is to help parents super bond their families through unforgettable adventures before their teens leave home. 


We provide a system, accountability, and encouragement to get you there.


We’re here to support you in living a deliberate, creative, adventurous life anchored in meaningful relationships and unforgettable experiences.


Because you're awesome!!


Thank you for being here,



P.s. Happy Halloween!



Family first doesn't mean Mom + Dad last.

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