A coalition of folks across the pond in the U.K. have organized Dying Matters Awareness Week, a discussion of living and dying that starts today. Their message on end-of-life issues: unless we change our reluctance to talk about dying and plan for the future, we are unlikely to be able to die as we would want with dignity, or to support the dying and the bereaved.
The Dying Matters Coalition is a collaboration of over 16,000 people, including hospices, care homes, charities, health and care professionals, the Church of England and other religious groups, as well as families and individuals who are themselves facing the end of life.
In this article in The Telegraph titled “Let’s not be afraid to talk about death,” author John Sentamu writes:
To die with dignity has become inextricably associated with a campaign for “assisted dying”, but for me dignity is actually about valuing life – life, as Jesus demonstrated, “in all its fullness”. In a society where people are living longer and medical science is enabling us to add more years to our span of life, we should not have to live in fear – we should celebrate and live life to the full. But in evading one of the most important discussions of our lives, we lose sight of the fact that a good death is also part of a good life.
Until this Monday morning you were probably not thinking about the meaning of life and the inevitability of death. Why would you? Even when there is time to sit back and consider the important things in life, we very rarely talk about death, even though sooner or later it catches up with all of us, regardless of our ethnic background or status. Death is the most democratic of all happenings.
It’s not that I want to depress you. Rather I want there to be an open discussion about the way our society deals with dying. Neither am I going to remonstrate with you on the importance of getting your spiritual and practical affairs in order. I simply want to ensure the fears and taboos surrounding death are challenged.
“It’s the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.” Do you know which wise philosopher said that? It was Harry Potter’s Professor Albus Dumbledore. But he’s absolutely right.
According to a poll just released by the Dying Matters Coalition, 71 per cent of the public (in the U.K.) agree that people are uncomfortable discussing dying and bereavement.
Another great observation:
We all have to die, but we can go some way towards dying with dignity if we first articulate our choices, such as the place where we want to die, the kind of spiritual support we may want, how we wish to be cared for and what our funeral plans may be.
Make some funeral plans and have a discussion with your loved ones. It’s a matter of life and death.