It is always an interesting conversation when I tell people I am a birth doula and a death midwife in training. People understand my fascination and commitment to supporting and empowering families in birth but when it comes to death their faces change. I am often met with questions like “why on earth would you want to do that? ” or “are you morbid?”
Interestingly the word morbid suggests an unhealthy mental state or attitude to something but I would argue the unhealthy aspect of dying stems from the death-phobic trauma culture surrounding it and our failure to make friends with our own mortality.
For starters our fear of the conversation in general and the decision-making processes surrounding death.
This means we end up with morbid statistics like 70% of people wanting to die at home and only 14% of people who want the palliative home care option arranged actually getting it. Simply because many people don’t know what their options are.
I wonder what it would look like if death became a conversation we could all joyfully have and plan for together – without the fear and with the communal goal of giving our loved ones the kind of departure they want?
This week Jane Caro tweeted “ How do you want your last days on earth to be spent? You won’t get your wish if you don’t tell anyone. #deathoverdinner
What led me in part to this work (death midwifery) was my uncle’s death and his often-comical instructions. Firstly I would have liked to be by his side at the end (I know many of my family members would have) so I decided to get trained and secondly, because my family all took a little solace and some giggles from his post-it notes.
Performed a new piece last night. Dedicated to the 37 babies who are in danger of being sent to Nauru. #LetThemStay it is especially for Mr Turnbull. The poem is called “Dear Daddy” … This is part of the piece ~ You see my neck can’t yet hold up my own head and my skull cannot protect my delicate mind. So I ask you Mr Turnbull, where is your fathers brain? Your lions heart? Your grandfathers spine? Where are the soft hands you used to wipe the tears from your own children’s cheeks? Where is the light of joy in your eyes when your son learnt a new word? When your daughter crawled across the room towards you, for the very first time, when her lips sang to you “Daddy”. Daddy please protect me. Daddy keep me safe. Daddy give me a home, so I can learn to use my feet, to walk with my head held high, because I mean something don’t I? I mean, I matter right? Tell me that I matter, please! Because you said you stand for families and every child is a precious gift, but daddy I’ve been having nightmares, wishing I was a bird who could get up and fly away but there’s barbed wire all around me and my screams cannot be heard. I see a little boy in the corner with tape over his mouth, so he doesn’t tell anyone what happened to him and who are all these strangers? Daddy where are you? because there are only two words for what I’m seeing … Child abuse. #spokenword #slam #bankstownpoetryslam #Malcolmturnbull #nochildbelongsinimmigrationdetention #stayawayfromthechildren A photo posted by Imogen Bailey (@imogen_bailey) on Feb 23, 2016 at 5:41pm PST