Thursday, August 7, 2014

Dying to Know

“I’ll be dead.”

My neighbour holds her wine glass and continues: “I don’t care, because I’ll be dead.”  

We are chatting about her funeral, eulogy and how she would like to be remembered.   I haven’t even asked her about her thoughts of coffin verses shroud.  Priest verses celebrant?  Home burial? 

Whilst it’s true that funerals are ‘for the living” it seems my friend can walk out of her life without a care in the world or a backward glance, but it’s not for me.

Us ‘deathies’  who work in the funeral business, love to discuss other’s funeral plans and we enjoy asking the big questions of life, and death. 

We are the death whisperers.  We are the people who give you permission to think and plan.

The thing that makes us human is that we know we will die one day. It’s what urges us on to live, knowing that the death stopwatch is ticking every second.  Having frank conversations of your own death, can give you an unexpected calmness and confidence.  These days anything goes, and new professions are being born such as funeral planners, and death doulas, or palliative carers.

‘Dying to Know Day’ is an occasion to create social and cultural change about death and dying.   The aim is to promote resilience and well-being in response to end-of-life issues, and to encourage people to build their death literacy.  It’s not morbid, in fact quite the opposite!

It’s a breath of fresh air - opening a window in your life to plan and discuss your own thoughts and wishes  with your loved ones.

Just as talking about pregnancy or chocolate won't make you pregnant or fat, chatting about death won't kill you!  

Discussion on death, dying and funerals is the new black, with Death Cafes being held regularly in Brisbane and internationally. Death Cafes are not grief workshops, nor are they support groups.   A Death CafĂ© is where people, often strangers, meet to have open and frank discussions about death, dying and grief, within safe boundaries.   Of course there’s cake too, as we celebrate our own lives.

It seems society has turned a cultural philosophical corner but there is a long way to go; we are all on the same train, with some of us getting off at different stations. I urge you to sit down with your family and have a cuppa and that special chat.  Talk about your Wills, chat about end-of-life wishes, and especially discuss and make your Advanced Health Care plan.   You don't need a terminal illness to begin these conversations, in fact, do it whilst you are well and healthy.  Making your Will, organising your Power of Attorney, and Advanced Care planning are all part of your life, and your future. 

Last month I put on my big-girl-pants and bought my own grave, and I couldn't be happier.  It occurred to me that I didn't want to be scattered, as nice as that sounds; I wanted a grieving place for future ancestors to come and visit and point, saying: “Look, they've spelt her name wrong.”

Having my grave chosen and paid for has given me added freedom to live my life.  I've made peace with my own mortality, and it gives me great comfort to know that it’s sorted.   

You'll find me gently resting somewhere in an historic cemetery, high on the hill and under a huge tree (great for photos!) with city and mountain views.

I'll be pushing up daisies, after I've kicked the bucket, how good is that?  The trick is not to fill it too soon.

My sons are relieved as that’s one less thing to worry about; they can sort out my funeral and it better include champagne!

Oh, that’s right, I’ll be dead.  

Thursday, April 24, 2014

On Anzac Day

On Anzac Day,
They stand, soldier-stiff,
row upon row,
Faceless yet united with a common base.

They wait, patiently,
regimental in their ranks,
White-washed with intent.

They sit, helplessly organised,
Mustering the courage and teeth gritting determination,
Not to stand out, not be heroic,
But to simply do their job. Their task.

Also, chairs.

Tomorrow when the Silence comes

Tomorrow, when the silence comes
In shadow and sunshine
to sit thickly on young shoulders
We will remember them.

The Johnnies and Yemats
The Harries and the others
Who came for adventure and
Stayed to claim their lives.

Tomorrow when the silence comes
We will breathe as one,
As our fathers, sons and great greats
Gently stand beside us in life.

The crowd will cough a little
And shuffle as memories settle
In bright sun. Heads bowed
We will remember them,
When the silence comes tomorrow.