Nobody can think about their own death. The Britpop artist Damien Hirst’s most famous artwork consists of the preserved body of great white shark in a huge cube. It’s called “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living“ and it’s a great metaphor – this terrifying, remorseless thing that you cannot escape when it has you in its sights.
Actually thinking about our own deaths doesn’t have to be terrifying, as the new website from the campaigning organisation, Compassion in Dying makes clear.
Their aim is to help people to make informed choices about the end of their lives; to start honest conversations about death and dying with their loved ones, and – importantly – to be able to record and revisit their wishes whenever they want, without charge.
Compassion in Dying has a sister organisation, Dignity in Dying, and their joint aim is to improve dying in the UK by putting people in charge of decisions about the end of their life.
Like them, I believe a good life should include a good death. In a place you choose, with the people who matter. Having the care and treatments you want, and not the ones you don’t.
We need to do more than just talk about death, though. We have to take practical steps to make sure the people we love know what we want when the time comes. It’s hard to believe that only 16% of people with a terminal or advanced illness have had a conversation with their doctor about what might happen as their condition progresses, particularly at the end of life, but that’s what YouGov found in survey they conducted in 2019.
If you have the courage to contemplate your own mortality, take a moment to visit the Compassion in Dying website. I think you’ll find it both reassuring and helpful.
The image comes from an article by Shira Wolfe in the magazine Artland, which is well worth a read too…