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Hello everyone,

First I wanted to remind people of the amazing online course I’m participating in. It’s based in Australia, but relevant to all of us! Lots of fun (yes, fun!), great links, discussion, and questions to think about. Here’s the link:

https://www.openlearning.com/courses/dying2learn2018/HomePage

It’s felt particularly relevant in the past couple of weeks, with the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain – and the ensuing media commentary about suicide. And then news this week that our much loved (former) member of Parliament in Ottawa, Paul Dewar, has been diagnosed with grade 4 glioblastoma – a deadly form of brain cancer. So although I am far from home at the moment,  he is very much on my mind.

Last year I talked about an online course I was taking called dying2learn. It’s completely online, with videos, lessons, stories, and questions to ponder and respond to. I thoroughly enjoyed taking it – so stress, no exams, just a large community of people learning and sharing together. It’s international (the people who organize and run the class are in Australia) but through the wonders of the internet, people from all over the world join in!

If you’re interested in finding a place to share your thoughts, learn more about death and dying (including different traditions and cultures), and challenge (perhaps) some of your assumptions, I strongly urge you to sign up!

https://www.openlearning.com/courses/dying2learn2018/

The link to join is on the upper right hand side of the opening screen – just click on sign up! And let me know what you think!!!

For those of you who are curious about why I wrote this report, here’s the introductory note I wrote to explain what had changed between 2013 (when I wrote the first report) and 2018 when this report was released:

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
MARY OLIVER, “THE SUMMER DAY”

When I wrote the first edition of this report in 2013, Contemporary Family Trends: Death, Dying and Canadian Families, I could not have imagined how much the circumstances around death and dying would change in a few short years. While I knew that efforts were under way to legalize what I termed “assisted suicide” in the 2013 edition, I did not anticipate the Supreme Court ruling in Carter v. Canada in 2015, nor the passage of Quebec’s Bill 52 and Bill C-14 that legalized medical assistance in dying (MAID) in June 2016. Although the issues surrounding medically assisted dying are not fully resolved, MAID is legal across Canada (under certain circumstances), and to date more than 2,600 people have obtained medical assistance in dying.

Despite opposition from some organizations and individuals, it appears that most Canadians have come to accept MAID as a fact of life (and, of course, death). There can be little doubt, however, that the silence surrounding death and dying with which I opened my previous report has – to a degree – been broken.

Today, we see countless news articles, television and radio programs, and a vast number of accounts of death and dying experiences every day – and not just about MAID.  Whether it’s stories about reclaiming death (e.g. death doulas, green burials, living funerals), coverage of the “slow medicine” movement resisting highly medicalized geriatric and end-of-life care, or the debate surrounding legislation such as Bill C-277, An Act Providing for the Development of a Framework on Palliative Care in Canada, it’s clear that change is in the air.

How have these changes affected Canadians’ experiences of death and dying? Certainly nothing so earth-shattering as an end of death itself has occurred. What has been the impact of these developments on families across Canada? How do factors of race, indigeneity, income, location, gender and sexual identity, among others, continue to determine people’s experiences of death?

Despite the significant evolution in the conversations on death and dying, most Canadians approach death with some measure of fear, ignorance and dread. Thus, major sections from the 2013 edition of this report remain substantially the same, with updated information and statistics. Most people still wish they could avoid death. For the most part, Canadians have not heeded Mary Oliver’s sage advice to embrace each day of our “one wild and precious life.”

For the full report, click this link: http://vanierinstitute.ca/death-becoming-less-taboo/

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind this week with the release of the report on Monday and four radio interviews that morning (all before 8:20 in the morning!). It’s been wonderful sharing the report with people and initiating conversations about the importance of talking about death and dying.

On Thursday, I attended the annual palliative care education day in Ottawa. The keynote speaker was Jeremie Saunders (founder of the amazing podcast Sickboy). If you haven’t had a chance to hear Jeremie speak, I strongly advise that you check out the podcast. You can find it on I-Tunes (or wherever you get your podcasts). So far Jeremie and his co-hosts have interviewed 140 different people about the impact of their illness on their lives. Jeremie lives with cystic fibrosis, and his story and his energy, passion, and truth-telling is truly inspiring. And laugh out loud funny! Please check him out!

Today I attended Grand Rounds at the Hospice where I volunteer. Jeremie was the speaker there as well, and though I had just heard him yesterday, I enjoyed every single minute of his talk. His key AHA moments as he calls them:

  1. Be vulnerable.
  2. Life is too short for small talk.
  3. Your Actions CAN change the world.

A pretty great way to end the week!

 

 

The report is out! Here’s the link: Family Perspectives: Death and Dying in Canada

It’s wonderful to have it launched on the first day of Hospice Palliative Care Week!

Enjoy!

I’m super excited for the release of my report on Monday. It will be released by the Vanier Institute of the Family At 8 am but I’ll be doing CBC morning radio interviews till 8:30! Listen for me at 7:45 in Ottawa!

I’ll post the link here as soon as I get back home.

Finding meaning in death

The latest episode of Tapestry (a CBC radio program on spirituality, religion, meaning …) has an interview with the creator of wecroak, an app whose sole purpose is to remind us that we are going to die. He’s actually really thoughtful and engaging! There a couple of other great interviews. Definitely worth a listen!

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