Breaking taboos about death over high tea

What song would you like played at your funeral?

What do you want your legacy to be?

Where would you like to be when you die? Who would you like to be there?

Why don’t we talk about death?

All good questions that were topics of conversation at an afternoon tea with a difference at Sandringham Library in Melbourne yesterday.

Staff from Calvary Bethlehem’s specialist palliative care service at Caulfield South have partnered with Bayside City Council’s Healthy Ageing program to hold the event ahead of today’s Dying to Know Day, which aims to empower people to be strong self-advocates for their own personal planning when it comes to their future.

Calvary Bethlehem’s Volunteer Coordinator Lindy Shaw said it was an afternoon of relaxed conversation over high tea aimed at breaking the taboo surrounding death.

“Death comes to us all, it’s one of life’s most important conversations but most people don’t feel comfortable talking about it,” said Ms Shaw, who is also a counsellor and guided people through the discussion.

Helping people to have the conversations has become a “passion project” for Lindy who saw the benefits firsthand within her own family. Experiencing the duality of the joy and sadness of that time for those she was closest to led her to want to help people find meaning and purpose at the end of their lives.

“We base the event on the ‘Let’s Talk About Death Over Dinner’ book and concept to encourage people to think and talk about what they might want when it comes to their end of life and death.

“Death is scary for most people, thinking about it confronting, and talking to loved ones about what you might want can be hard.

“But having these conversations is important. It can not only bring a peace of mind for the individual but can having the ‘tough conversations’ now, can reduce the anguish, distress and grief experienced by loved ones later.”

Calvary Bethlehem initially started planning ‘Let’s Talk About Death’ events for 2020 but had to pivot when the pandemic struck, switching instead to what they called ‘Death over Zoom’ sessions. This week’s event is the first in-person event, and the start of what Lindy hopes will be many more.