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How We View Death

When the moment comes,

Be calm and not scared.

Rejoice in your life.

Be pleased how you fared. ©

It seems only apt that I am writing this blog on the eve of The Day of the Dead. When I was living in Spain, it was a day when we would go to my husband’s family’s tombstone at the local graveyard, where all his great-grandparents and grandparents are buried. Along with the other visiting families, we would clean the tombstone, arrange fresh flowers and have a minute’s silence to pay our respects to those who had passed on. It was a day of honouring the dead. We would eat special aniseed wafers and custard or cream filled buñuelos - thin, round, fried pastry dumplings, dusted with icing sugar. These foods were only consumed on that day. The whole mood and reverence of November 1st and the days leading up to it, couldn’t have been more removed from the western Halloween celebrations of ghostly costumes and Trick or Treat where death is trivialized.

How We View Death
How We View Death

This weekend I had the privilege of being part of the Good Life Good Death Expo at the Brisbane Exhibition Centre.

It was extraordinary to see how many organizations and companies are interested in making the last moments of this life as sacred, ritualistic and respectful as possible. Even funerals now have a different feel and name: a memorial service, a gathering, a tribute, a farewell ceremony. I listened to some wonderful, life-changing short videos and I’d like to share the links with you:

I picked up beautiful conversation starter cards which make it easy to get a difficult discussion flowing ( I met counsellors, social workers and people who work in palliative care. I listened to Dr. Sarah Winch who has written a book called The Best Death (how to die well) inspired by the death of her husband who passed away at 48 with kidney cancer. I had the honour of speaking to a Deathwalk trainer, Zenith Virago, one of the authors of The intimacy of Death and Dying and owner of the Natural Death Care Centre (

Ever heard of Music-Thanatology? I hadn’t until this weekend. It is a sub-specialty of palliative care that unites music and medicine at the end of life care. You may have recently seen Coles employees wearing purple t-shirts with Hummingbird House written on them. I now know that it’s Queensland’s only children’s hospice which supports children at the end of life and their families. I also found out about The Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement which builds the capacity of people to enhance wellbeing following adverse life events (

Probably the most important thing I found out about at the Good Life Good Death Expo was the Advance Care Planning document which everyone from the age of 18 needs to fill out. It’s a document which lets others know what is important to you in the event that you will not be able to communicate it for yourself.

As you take your last breath,

chest goes up and down,

your mind has compassion for self and all others around.

© Jen Compton

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