East of Eden Death Cafe I
Saturday 25 September saw the first (we hope) of the North-East London ‘in person’ Death Cafes at the lovely East of Eden café in Walthamstow. Big thanks to Abby and her team for offering us use of the venue. As one of the attendees fedback: ‘East of Eden feels like the perfect venue, calm and reflective… ‘
The online Death Cafes are an amazing experience, but as everyone expressed there is something so different about being in the same space and being ‘in person’. The connection is more immediate and well, more three dimensional!
As always, the conversations were wide-ranging covering a whole host of thoughts, feelings and topics. Eco-grief – a term to represent the grief and anxiety that we may experience around climate change, the loss and destruction of habitats led to the sharing of a street in tears at the removal of trees that had been part of the street longer than most residents, the unkind administrations of a tree surgeon to an oak tree. This led to discussion around grief and how all kinds of loss can be triggers and how it all ties into our sense of our own mortality.
Fear of death was discussed. Do we fear it? Do we think about what comes next? There was some unity that it wasn’t death itself that was feared as much as the passage to death, the possibility of loss of dignity, the loss of self and overwhelmingly the concern of being the cause of pain or distress to those that we love. It is a disconcerting thought that as death is something that will happen, no ifs or buts, that our death will inevitably be the source of pain to those that we leave behind. We can’t control either.
We talked about things that we can control. Scandinavian decluttering came up again. The idea of getting rid of your possessions, making things as simple as possible for those who have to ‘clean up’ after you have gone. The pleasure of passing on jewellery and precious possessions while you are still alive. The relief and peace that can be offered in planning for death. If there’s only one thing that you do – share your iphone and social media passwords! How much of our life we lock into our mobile phones and other digital devices.
The practical aspects of the disposal of the body when someone dies. The choosing of clothes, what happens to them when they are cremated. Does everything become ash? The questions we might want to ask but that we feel that no-one wants to hear. How lonely experiencing the death of a loved one and grieving can make us feel. The sense that experiencing death is a contamination. The experience comes into the room with us while we are grieving and is a reminder to everyone else of its unimaginable finality. That sense that if we talk about death, or open our eyes to its possibility, we will let it in. A superstition perhaps, but it is there.
This café, as with others, countered this so strongly. Talking about death, admitting its reality doesn’t bring death closer, it can open our eyes to life.