Thursday, 11 August 2022

Death Cafe

 On Saturday, I attended a death cafe. It was a free event, sponsored by the local council and the local cemetery.

I arrived early at the community college and was asked to take a seat while the organiser found out which group I was joining.

It didn't take long before my facilitator. Karen, came to usher me to her room.

Under the window, there was a lovely spread of sandwiches, miniature tarts and delicate macarons.

About a dozen chairs were arranged in a semi-circle with a "goodie bag" on each one.

I took a seat while others milled around, chatting to Karen. One woman, lets call her Ingrid, was at pains to present Karen with a book she had written. My mind went back to a rule of thumb some minister had told me: The first person to come up and speak to a minister on their first day with a new congregation is the one who will be the biggest headache, no matter how nice they seem to  be.

The morning soon got underway, there was no agenda or format, it was just a forum to discuss whatever aspects of death concerned us. Karen had a particular emphasis on "getting ducks in a row" with regard to documents such as a will, power of attorney, enduring guardianship and end of life plan.

One woman in her fifties was actively planning for her own death, saying that she didn't want her children to have to make difficult decisions at the end of her life or feel obliged to visit a grave which might be distant from where they lived. I was a little shocked that she was so actively organising an end which might be decades away.

One woman described her experience of coming home to find her mother sitting on the floor with the dog in her lap. Finding her mum's body had been her worst nightmare but when it happened, she found it beautiful.

We spent a while talking about washing the deceased and there was a large focus on not wanting to wash a naked parent. Draping is the very obvious answer to that and I thought we spent a lot of time on something very minor in the scheme of things.

Ingrid talked about her husband's slow death with dementia, she advocated for palliative care at home and then she said "As Christians, we knew where he was going" She repeated that statement many times over the morning and I couldn't help but think she was there to flog the book or the religion or both. I found it rude and ruder when she made a kerfuffle about her early departure: putting on a jacket, collecting her suitcase and waving goodbye with total indifference to the fact that a deep conversation had been in progress.

It was an interesting morning (for the people watching as much as the subject matter) and I left with a better understanding of what services are available, what options there are and what preparations need to be made. 

Death cafe is a world wide movement so there might be one near you.

Thursday, 4 August 2022

Neighbours again - Boose

It was maybe a year ago that the family across the road had their daughther's boyfriend move in to live with them.
My daughter, Briony, always knows what is happening and would give me reports:

Natalie and Boose close the blinds when we go outside to mow lawns.
Boose was standing in the window shirtless.
Boose was washing his mother-in-law's car.........

The family are not friendly people and will look in the opposite direction rather than say hello so I eventually was struck by curiosity:

Did you actually talk to this guy? How do you know his name is Boose? (rhymes with moose)
Who names a kid Boose?

I was met with hilarious, stomach clutching laughter.

"No, I didn't speak to him, I don't know his name, thats his number plate B-O-U-S"

It's been weeks and I'm still laughing!

In other news, cousin Dave showed up a few days ago, walking up the road with hospital bracelet still on his wrist. I slowed the car and put the window down 
"DAVOOOO!!  It's so good to see you home!"

we spoke for a moment and then I asked why he still had the hospital bracelet on.

"I forgot my name"

Caitlin and I were both momentarily horrified  and then

"haha! GOTCHA!"

He does have dementia but is relieved to have an explanation for his recent confusion. 

Wednesday, 20 July 2022


 Nick posted about a woman in London who died and lay undiscovered for years so his post has prompted me to think about neighbours.

If you have an exceptional memory for detail, you might remember that about a year ago I mentioned my neighbour Dave. We refer to him as cousin Dave because we are somehow, distantly related. (His mother and I have the same maiden name) 

Anyways, Dave has been the bit of local colour: he tells stories, keeps an eye on people's property, puts bins out and is usually up with the goss. He's a likeable kind of fella, he's lived next door for years but it's only in the last two or three that we've spoken to him much.

Dave's stories often seem to be embroidered, like the one about working for one of Sydney's best known publicans or the one about how he was the first person to start using dark grey and blue type colurs on houses when green and cream had been in vogue.

The recent story that he was engaged and would soon be marrying and moving away also seemed far fetched. But it didn't trigger warning bells for me.

He started to look a little more dishevelled than he had and I assumed he was less attentive to his looks because he was working less than before.

When he measured my fence line (because he always had an opinion to give on home improvement projects) and got the measurement wrong, I assumed it was a simple mistake.

When he shook his fist aggressively at my girls as they drove past, they thought he had been drinking.

When he took cherry tomatoes from our vine and called then "cherries" we thought he was being a bit funny.

One time when he seemd to have trouble understanding me, I thought he had a hearing problem rather than a cognitive one.

And then the police showed up and Dave was forcibly taken to hospital. He had failed a cognitive test, his doctor had taken his drivers licence and he was saying he was going to jump in front of a train.

Right now we don't know what is really wrong but his housemate who is a nurse says it looks like early onset dementia. Apparently he's been declining for a while but really crashed over just two or three weeks.

We spoke to Dave a couple of times a week. We cared. We saw the signs but didn't interpret them properly.

It makes me wonder if the guy I saw as "eccentric" was eccentric at all. Maybe I never saw the real Dave.

It's easy to say we live in a horrible world and people don't care but sometimes we just don't know what we are looking at.