Welcome to the blog tour and guest post of
Edna’s Death Cafe
by Angelena Boden
A regular question I get asked once a new book has been released is, ‘What are you working on now?’ My reply is usually quick and simple as I will have started a new project during the long submission process of the previous book. If I don’t write my 2000 words a day, even if they are raw round the edges, then I feel as if some of my skin has been scratched off.
Not this time though. I’ve abandoned two half-written novels and have a fat notebook filled with ideas for a non-fiction work.
Edna’s Death Cafe has taken its toll. I thought I was mentally and emotionally prepared to write this gem of a concept (Death Cafe) into fiction to make it more accessible with a strong, septuagenarian woman as the lead character running the sessions from her own establishment, The Happy Oatcake.
I’ve been to many Death Cafe get-togethers which are not, as some people may think, counselling or grief support sessions. They are opportunities for strangers to meet in a café setting to talk about mortality and how to make the best of our finite lives… over tea and cake, of course. There might be a few tears of sadness, but also joy, on realising that the only thing that really matters in the end is love, and that amongst the rubble of the darkest moments, flickers of candlelight can be spotted if we keep our eyes open.
My personal journey took me along an unfamiliar path, down into dank undergrowth at times but also onto mountain ledges, which gave me a panoramic view of unpolluted truth. My own truth that is. It was like gulping in lungfuls of oxygen. I read the great philosophers, from the Stoics to the Nihilists, the Hedonists to the Realists and Existentialists. Each one of them has a lot to say about life and death as you’d expect.
Like them, Edna showed me a new way to think, uncluttered by materialism, roller coaster emotions and competitiveness. Her way is to be kind and compassionate, to accept gratefully and graciously what we’ve been given, and to do our bit, no matter how small, to ease the pain of others. It was through Edna, I learnt how to live after many losses and the sudden death of my dad. We weren’t close and I regret all the things I never said, the forgiveness I couldn’t find, the apology I couldn’t say. Setting the book in the Peak District, where he lived all this life, not needing or wanting adventure, but fulfilled by providing nursing services to the dying until he was eighty-two, is a tribute to him. I realised how much he’d given me in terms of real values of service and sacrifice.
Writing Edna helped me grieve properly by finding pleasure in everyday things. I now go back to Derbyshire more than I did before, to reconnect with my past, my roots and my identity but more importantly, to understand how its unique beauty holds the power of healing.
The characters were my friends for a year, and still are. Their losses are mine. Their pain cuts me deeply but then I was writing from the shadows of my own grief which I hope added authenticity to their stories whilst dropping in a little dark humour here and there.
In Derbyshire we were brought up to be hardy. Snowdrops not snowflakes. A natural resilience and fortitude was, and I think still is, part of our nature. It’s bleak in the Peak as we used to say, scraping ice off the windows and getting dressed in our beds.
I’m asked if the book has changed me. Yes. It stripped away any pretence of self-importance, the value of material success and the unquenchable desire to be the best. I went back to being me and that is good enough.
It’s scary to think that someday we will die. No exceptions. We shouldn’t mourn this fact but accept it with stoic indifference. We have no control over it and if the philosophers are right, we will have no knowledge of what it is like to be dead.
We should see death as a treasured gift which drives us to suck every juicy raindrop from the buds of life while we have time.
There are a number of quotes I could drop in here but this is my favourite, from the French philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardain.
‘We are spiritual beings having a human experience.’
Edna has warmed the hearts of those who have met her. I need to sit with her a while before starting something new. I’m not ready to let her go just yet.
As in life, death is not without its agenda. This is something seventy-nine year old Edna Reid finds out when her partner, Ted, suddenly dies.
To cope with her loss, she sets up a Death Cafe to break down the taboo around death and to encourage other members of the community to discuss it openly. Over tea and cake, the participants hide their fears behind a veil of dark humour.
Religious fanaticism clashes with Victorian spiritualism as Edna’s meetings trigger lively conversations on the fragility of life, anxiety over dying, cost of funerals, and making sure long-lost greedy relatives don’t benefit from inheritances.
Soon, a series of events begin to unfold which threaten to undermine Edna’s livelihood and the Death Cafe meetings. These events just happen to coincide with the arrival of a mysterious stranger into the village.
Who is she and why is she so hostile to Edna?
Angelena Boden has spent thirty- five years as an international training consultant, specialising in behavioural management and conflict resolution. She trained in Transactional Analysis, the psychology of communication and behaviour, her preferred tool for counselling and coaching.
She originates from the Peak District but has spent a life time travelling and living in places as far apart as Vancouver, Dubai, Paris, Seville and Iran. Now semi-retired in Great Malvern, she writes every morning, walks the hills and paints landscapes every afternoon and fits family and reading in between.
She is the author of two traditionally published novels and many articles and blogs.
Her most recent novel, Edna’s Death Cafe is published as an e-book by Matador.
Angelena is keen to meet readers, old and new, and is available for book talks, events, and always chatting over a cuppa (within 60 miles of Worcester).
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