Perhaps what leaves people feeling okay after a good funeral is the space of reflection that it has created. As much as a satisfying funeral is a place for grieving, support and appreciation of the contribution of the person who has died, it is a place for humility in the face of Life. We want simple stories at a funeral, not pretention. We want conventional ways of being to subside for a time. We seek reflection, not the ego-inflated rah rah that surrounds us in everyday culture.
These thoughts came to mind when I read Christopher Hobson’s piece in this week’s Conversation, Humility’s Value for Democracy in Dark Times. The image that heads the article shows Donald Trump occupying the role of potential world leader. Hobson’s call is for more humility in politics. It’s an attractive alternative to the scene out there today. At the same time it may seem unlikely and remote. Yet, it is possible that each one of us, as individuals, can contribute to reflection and simplicity.
One way we can do this is to acknowledge the everyday reality of death. Not to keep it always on the back burner. To understand ourselves as mortal, and be prepared. We can do this through thinking about property and setting out directions in a will. We can also think about our selves. What would my advance care directions look like?
Would I want to be resuscitated?
One person who frequents the staffroom where this defibrillator is situated is clear about his wishes. The name Brett is bold on the front of the equipment. He is a young, fit leader. Through reflection he has come to a decision. Colleagues know what matters to him.
Many people are sick of Australian society’s self-deception about what matters. We’re worried that our society is entrapped by unrealistic views. Perhaps it is this that fuels the new ‘talk about death’ movements. As a facilitator who helps others plan for end of life, I notice what a busy socio-cultural space this has become. As convenor of Death Cafe Melbourne, never a week goes by without new likes on the Facebook page. I recently attended Deakin University’s launch of Death over Dinner, where a range of health professionals put forward a plea for more conversations about death. Australians’ Most Important End of Life Wishes were shown to highlight evidence from recent research. To be surrounded by the people I love. To be free from pain. To ensure my end of life wishes are honoured and respected.
In fact Australians tend to focus on practical issues. Making a will. Getting an enduring power of attorney for property and finance. They do not easily get prepared for dying itself.