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Dying to Know: bringing life to death, is a Pilotlight Australia Project book aimed at helping people connect. It is a most interesting read. While most people shy away from having to deal with death and dying, this book has you look at it from a positive perspective. That’s right: a positive perspective. Without numbered pages, it is one of those open-to-any-page types of books: the type with an attention-grabbing quote or caption, coupled with an appropriate image.  Once you have taken a quick peek between the covers, you are unlikely to want to put it down, for it is enthralling and there is nothing morbid about this book.  In fact, it is full of caring, thoughtful suggestions and ideas.  On some pages the comments seem logical: on others, bordering on humorous. But above all else, I think that most readers would find it a helpful read, especially for someone coping with this very difficult situation. The front cover picture heralds the off-beat content: two men hand-in-hand joyfully jumping off the end of the jetty.

The book raises awareness. At the same time it is a practical manual for caring for the dying. How many people just assume that the person’s ‘carer’ is doing everything that is required?  Offering to help before waiting to be asked, is a gesture which can have wonderful benefits for both parties. Those who have been letter-writers but are no longer capable of doing so may appreciate the offer of assistance. The author suggests that if you give some serious thought to it, there will be many ways in which you can assist the dying. Simple things like reading the paper.  Able bodied people don’t always realise that just holding a newspaper can be too heavy for the frail as is holding a full mug of coffee. This is something I became aware of caring for my mother in her last few months, so it had some resonance for me.

Offering to do a crossword or read a book for someone may bring delight to the person, especially if their vision is failing. This book reminds us that there is something special about sharing an activity which may provide lasting memories: there’s no time like the present, for it is a gift. I personally learned many things about my own mother that none of my siblings knew. I am glad I was proactive in asking as I learned more about who she was as a person.

Certainly the book is a rich mine of suggestions. The language is straightforward and the style is unsophisticated. It is full of an almost endless list of suggestions on how we can lend support to those who may soon depart. It teaches us that what we do has meaning to those receiving our care. It may even mean the difference between dealing with their loss successfully and grieving endlessly. Let us be honest with ourselves: we are all going to die someday. Not that we should dwell on it but this may be a method for recognising that it is part of life instead of hiding it under the carpet. Some of the suggestions for consideration include; green funerals; truths and myths re cremation; honouring the dead: the origins of the use of flowers to hide odours; wills and wishes; involving children. I personally found the book hard to put down and a welcome addition to my library. But this is not a book to put away on the shelves. It is well suited to the coffee table. Highly recommended.

Pilotlight Australia Dying to Know: bringing death to life Hardie Grant Books 2010 Australia (no pg no’s) ISBN 978-1-74066-553-7 $19.95

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