Death comes to us all and yet most of us avoid talking about it.
Not so Molly Carlile, the self-described death talker.
Working in palliative care as a nurse and grief counsellor for 20 years, she has helped families have conversations that almost always turn from something uncomfortable into something comforting.
Far too often, Molly says, we wait until death is stalking before start talking.
She offers a road map for that difficult terrain in her book. The Death Talker What We Need To Talk About When Confronting Death.
She says in western culture we’ve lost the skills needed to deal with death.
“All of us in western culture have allowed death to become a medical experience and that has happened to the exclusion of family and community.”
She is particularly taken with the idea Australian aborigines have that death is going home to country.
“To me that’s a beautiful way of describing what dying is.”
In the west we resort to euphemisms such as passed, passed away or crossed, which are an avoidance tactic she says.
“Most people don’t have the experience of going to the neighbour’s house and visiting the dying neighbour - that doesn’t happen like it used to.
“So we’ve lost a level of skill that we used to have.”
So when is the right time to say good bye to a person who is dying?
“Don’t wait to say goodbye, there’s never a right time to say goodbye. A dying person isn’t going on an overseas trip and coming back.
“Speak from your heart and you’ll never make a mistake.”