The Kiwi Coffin Club

Love the way these baby-boomers are rethinking the end, turning old ideas on their head, the way they always have – while making friends and tap-dancing.

Thanks to my dear friend, writer Katie Delaney, for sharing this.

Not a time to go it alone


Screen Shot 2017-06-04 at 11.36.47 am
Words and image by Catherine Arcolio of  Leaf and Twig. To see more of her wonderful work go to:

Today,  a story of successful support from Dorothy Kamaker and her team for Sandra. Dorothy is one of those advocates we need more of: she helps people navigate our confusing modern health care system to get the style of care they want – whether minimal or all out, usually when confronting the worst news, a terminal diagnosis.

Sandra wanted no intervention but as Dorothy points out: “It’s not a time to go it alone.”

“For Sandra, negativity was all consuming. Sandra went literally from a session at the gym to receiving a death sentence at a doctor’s surgery,” says Dorothy.

“Chemotherapy and immunotherapy were unacceptable further assaults. My role has been to understand Sandra’s goals and treatment options and become the independent expert supporter she can rely on to keep those goals at the forefront of her management. To cut a long story short, her house goes to auction in a month, her successful immunotherapy has her telling me ‘if I didn’t have those scan results I would not believe I had a problem’ and ‘the single most unexpected piece of advice you have given me has been to use palliative care as a way to go on living well rather than a last resort option’. The incredible sadness and negativity have disappeared.”

More about Dorothy Kamaker – Independent Patient Supporter  and Advocate – can be found at:


Book review: The Museum Of Words


When I got back from my recent travels in country NSW with family, I found this posting to her followers from Susan Wyndham. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Susan. The genre of reflecting on death and what it means, continues to grow.

From Susan: “You might be interested in The Museum of Words, a beautiful memoir by Australian writer Georgia Blain, who died of brain cancer last December. Here’s my review. If you don’t know her work, I highly recommend her earlier books, including her first memoir, Births Deaths Marriages, and her final novel, Between a Wolf and a Dog, which by coincidence was about a woman with brain cancer.”


Letting go – there’s no end to it.

by Tony Doherty 

We are never more human than when we are grieving. A strange claim? Perhaps that statement even sounds a little harsh, unfeeling. Grief can be excruciating. It is almost always accompanied by pain.We try to avoid it – even avoid thinking about it. But stop and consider something deeper for a moment. Grief is the other side of love.

If we love deeply, it is deeply painful to let go.

And yet ‘letting go’ is an inevitable and continuous process in the journey of life.

We let go our childhood.

We let go our adolescence – with all its pimples and self-doubt.

We let go our single life – if we move into committed relationship.

We sometimes have to let go our work – with unemployment, and displacement

We let go our home – the place that has shaped us.

Then there are the biggies.

– to let go our parents – sometimes in death, sometimes into aged care;

– to let go our children from home – if they ever leave??

– to let go our spouses sometimes – with death or divorce

Then inevitably we let go our previous selves. Perhaps our sight gets a little blurry, our hearing a little less acute, our bodies a little less flexible. The changes creep quietly into our days and frequently with little notice.  Ever heard the jokey observation? The three stages of life are – youth, middle age and ‘Wow, you’re looking well!’. Even our friends dodge the truth.

Letting go is hard. Holding on is harder.

Sometimes it seems to me life’s journey is a continual process of letting go.

Something like a long river of releasing one thing after another.

If that be so – we had better learn to swim.

It is a river that can have dangerous rapids and jagged rocks.

You don’t drown by falling into the water. You drown by staying there.

Given the accelerating pace of change, is there any surprise so many are gripped with fear of drowning.

One of the dramatic correctives to this merry-go-round-on-steroids culture, is the ancient wisdom -that we all grow ‘by subtraction’. The arithmetic of our culture is that ‘accumulation is king’. Consuming is the path to satisfaction.

Consider the opposite: perhaps the secret of well-being, of growing, of feeling free is: letting go.

Embracing the practice of letting go is a most difficult and daunting exercise. It can also be an exhilarating one. It applies to our emotions as well as our possessions. 

Letting go of the desire to be in control; to be always right, to have the last word, to be better than others. It is only by stripping yourself of the useless, non-essential baggage of your life that you can live with a sense of well-being.

Perhaps the wisdom lies in swimming. Remember the day you learnt to swim.

Only when you allowed yourself to trust the water, let go the side of the baths, and realise that your body could float, did the marvel of swimming became real.

Letting go and trusting our life is one of the great lessons of this winding river in which we swim.

Read more of  Tony’s wisdom at his blog “Breaking Bread Together”.

Tony and Ailsa Piper are the author’s of the wonderful book The Attachment.




A great description of palliative care

Screen Shot 2017-06-04 at 11.38.07 am
Image courtesy of Meredith Gaston, whose joyous work can be found at

Palliative care:

  • Provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms
  • Affirms life and regards dying as a normal process
  • Intends to neither hasten nor postpone death
  • Integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care
  • Offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death.

I was given this great insight into palliative care in a workshop recently – thank you Therese S!