Final Chapters: Writings About the End of Life is a moving collection of short stories and poetry pieces originally written for a competition run by the Dying Matters Coalition. We caught up their Director of Communications, Joe Levenson, to find out more about the idea behind the competition and why they believe a collection such as this can be not only moving but also significant in getting us all to open up about that final taboo – death and dying.
Final Chapters: we need to talk about dying
Every minute, someone in the UK dies but for many people talking about dying and facing up to their own mortality remains the final taboo, something either to be ignored or postponed indefinitely for a day that many of us like to believe will never come.
While most of us say we’re comfortable talking about dying, the reality is that the majority of people are still shunning important conversations and practical actions to manage their end of life care and final affairs. This reluctance to talk about dying also means that shared experience, which could be a real source of comfort and support, is often hard to come by.
It was against this backdrop that the Dying Matters Coalition was set up by the National Council for Palliative Care in 2009, with the aim of raising awareness about the importance of talking more openly about dying, death and bereavement. With over 30,000 members from across the voluntary, public and commercial sectors Dying Matters is at the forefront of trying to make it easier for everyone to talk about dying.
For many people writing about dying can be less difficult than talking about it and more therapeutic. That’s why Dying Matters initially launched its Final Chapters creative writing competition, and why we are so delighted that a collection of 30 short stories of poems from the competition has just been published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
This collection provides a great opportunity to think and talk about dying, death and bereavement – too often a taboo subject – and we hope that it will appeal to a wide range of readers. We also want it to become required reading for all those with a professional interest in end of life care.
So taken were we by the response to the Final Chapters competition which saw 1,400 entries including many of an exceptionally high standard, we have also just announced the launch of a new writing competition, While there’s still time: writing about putting things right. We really hope this will provide another great opportunity for people to use the medium of short stories and poems to reflect on end of life issues.
Certainties in life are few but dying is one of them. That’s why we hope that as well as providing a great read, Final Chapters plays a part in breaking the taboo about discussing dying.
By talking more openly about end of life issues and taking actions such as writing a will, recording our funeral wishes, registering as an organ donor, planning our future care and sharing what we would want with our loved ones we can help to ensure that we all get the chance to live well until we die.
You only die once, so don’t leave it too late to make your wishes known or to provide support to those who need it.
Joe Levenson is Director of Communications at the National Council for Palliative Care which leads the Dying Matters Coalition. Find out more about Dying Matters here.
You can also follow them on twitter: @DyingMatters