Back in 2015, I was the co-facilitator of the first Death Cafe in Castlemaine. This was not my first encounter working with the effects of death on people. In the late 1990’s I was volunteering in the Palliative Care Unit of the Melbourne City Mission in North Fitzroy, running Creative Wellness – Writing for Wellbeing workshops for carers and the bereaved.
When I was managing the Soul Food Cafe one of the important destinations was the Temple of Solace. I regarded the Temple of Solace as being one of the jewels in the crown of the Soul Food Cafe. It provided a quiet haven, a place where people from all over the world could find respite and solace.
It is one thing to work with the bereaved and a totally different thing to be confronted with the death of ones own loved ones, especially companion animals.
Over a period of just a few years I faced the deaths of key people and beloved animals. For me, personally, the ‘nail in the coffin’ was my mother’s death in 2010. I thought I was managing but I abandoned creative work like the Soul Food Cafe and focused on daily living and re-establishing myself as a single woman living in Castlemaine. My husband of thirty-five years had died in 2007 and, after two years I sold our house in Fitzroy and headed west to reinvent myself and establish a new life. It was completing a Masters of Social Work at Monash University in 2018, seeing how the puzzle pieces of my life all fitted together, that helped bring me back to the creative work with fresh vigour.
Recently I attended another Death Cafe here in town and I was reminded of the importance of talking about our varied life stories and our legacies. It is important to recall treasured memories and to listen to people who have lost those they love. It is also important to prepare our families and friends for our ultimate exit, for the time ‘when we have had enough fun’ and it is time to ‘leave the building’. And the wonderful thing is that there are actually no rules about how to go about this. By sharing we can become really creative.
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