Administration – it’s not as straight forward as it ought to be

This is a story that shouldn’t have to be told. What should be a straight forward affair once the seemingly essential paperwork is done, then people like Muriel Porter should be able to rest easy that she has done all that is required. But we can’t rely on the should word. Other people and agencies have other ideas and are not prone to giving much credence to the likes of Muriel. This is her story as posted on the ABC News website Tuesday 24 January 2023.

In: Before my husband’s death, I thought we had our affairs in order. Now I’m dealing with a nightmare of administration, Muriel writes …

For the past eight years — since my husband’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis — I have been managing all our finances.

When he was diagnosed, we had immediately set in place enduring powers of attorney and guardianship arrangements, as well as ensuring that all utilities and bank accounts were in joint names.

He already had a straightforward will, leaving everything to me, and he had always dutifully signed superannuation documents to say I was to inherit his super after his death.

Seems as if we had everything in place, doesn’t it? That’s what I thought — until he died two months ago.

I am overwhelmed now not just with grief — that is bad enough — but with a nightmare of administration.

And the worst of it is with his superannuation pensions.

Payments simply stopped.

Once the two super funds were notified of my husband’s death, the pensions simply stopped.

Yes, stopped, without any warning, without any notification. The monthly pension payments are no longer turning up.

Learn more by reading the full story HERE.

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Authors speak about how a fear of death has played out over human history

It’s all well and good to read the book, but it’s also good to have the opportunity to her from the authors. This edition of Big Ideas from ABC Radio National provides us with that. Paul Barclay is our host.

Rachel Menzies and her father Ross Menzies, authors of Mortals

To make the most of life, it’s best to get a handle on what death might mean and how best to approach the subject not only in a practical way, but also from an historical perspective. Guests on the program delve into the deep end and help shed light on this topic in a way that helps us better understand where we fit in and how we might use this knowledge to ease us along the path from our current place to what will be our ending of days.

The producers of the program write: Make the most of your life and be at peace with death. Easy to say but hard to do. Death is not a topic we’re encouraged to talk about but its shadow shapes many of the things we do.

Mortals: How the fear of death shaped human society recorded 10 March 2022 Adelaide Writers Week

First broadcast 31 March 2022. Rebroadcast Thursday 12 January 2023.


Rachel Menzies-Author and Postgraduate Fellow University of Sydney

Ross Menzies– Author and Professor UTS Graduate School of Health

Rick Sarre-host-Adjunct Professor of Law and Criminal Justice University of South

Listen here.

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Keep in mind that the end could come at any time

There is a philosophy as old as the hills. Well not that old. Two thousand five hundred is not in the millions which is the age of the hills, but it’s a long time in human history.

So it is that we begin the year with a quote and some wise words from philosophers who’ve been in the business of thinking about many of the things we think about, long before we started to think about them. This post comes courtesy of a project run by Ryan Holiday, titled The Daily Stoic. Here are his thoughts for Monday 9 January under the heading “Remember that you will die”.

Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. … The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.” — Seneca

The powerful and the wise have been finding ways to remind themselves of their mortality for centuries. Their art is filled with it. Their writing muses over it. Their desks were staged with totems to remind them of the urgency of life. They would keep reminders close to their body too, wearing memento mori rings, cufflinks, even tattoos. They never wanted to forget: We can go at any moment.

The Stoic finds this thought invigorating and humbling. Remembering this fact is one of the most important and critical of Stoic exercises.

It is not surprising that one of Seneca’s biographies is titled Dying Every Day. After all, it is Seneca who urged us to tell ourselves “You may not wake up tomorrow,” when going to bed and “You may not sleep again,” when waking up as reminders of our mortality. Or as another Stoic, Epictetus, urged his students: “Keep death and exile before your eyes each day, along with everything that seems terrible— by doing so, you’ll never have a base thought nor will you have excessive desire.” In Meditations Marcus Aurelius wrote “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” That was a personal reminder to continue living a life of virtue NOW, and not wait.

The French painter Philippe de Champaigne expressed a similar sentiment in his painting “Still Life with a Skull,” which showed the three essentials of existence – the tulip (life), the skull (death), and the hourglass (time). The original painting is part of a genre referred to as Vanitas, a form of 17th century artwork featuring symbols of mortality which encourage reflection on the meaning and fleetingness of life.

This is only depressing if you miss the point. Used properly memento mori is a tool to create priority and meaning, one that generations have used to create real perspective and urgency. To treat our time as a gift and not waste it on the trivial and vain. Death doesn’t make life pointless but rather purposeful. And fortunately, we don’t have to nearly die to tap into this. A simple reminder can bring us closer to living the life we want.

Holiday doesn’t beat about the bush. He is rather blunt leaving his readers in little doubt about the nature of his subject for the day. It fits with our position that states we need to face up to the realities of what it is to live in the present, knowing that this present day could be our last. It will be for thousands of people whether they have planned for it or not.

Let’s make sure as Seneca says that our minds are prepared for whatever eventuality life sends our way. “The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time”.

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Return to the earth as a tree

In:What Tree Will You Be When You Die?, Georgina Reid (Wonderground 26.11.2019), she speculates on the various options available to us when we die if our wish is to be a little closer to the earth than is normally the case.

Writes Georgina …

When I die, I want to be a tree. I’m not fixed on a particular species – I’d be happy to be a she-oak like the ones on the banks of the river near my house, or a yellow box from the farm of my childhood. I’d also be fine to be a banksia or an angophora. As long as my body is offering itself to new life, I don’t mind. I mean, I won’t mind, because I won’t have one.

One thing I do mind is the way I go. No funeral parlour, no horrible MDF coffin, no embalming, no city cemetery. I want to simply return to the earth and help something else grow. I’m not alone. The movement towards natural death practices is growing rapidly (ha!) due to the economic and environmental costs of common funeral practices, and a desire to re-connect to rituals around death. Green funeral directors, death walkers, coffin-making clubs, death cafes, and even mushroom burial suits are part of a return to a more connected vision of death and dying.

The full story here.

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Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill – the process

The new VAD laws for NSW won’t come into effect for another 12 months – November 2023. When they do, how will they be applied? What will be the process for accessing them? Here is a flow chart of the process that potential users will need to follow …

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A tower of strength for nature dies at 84

It’s been a sad day for us at Die-alogue Cafe. We have learned that Herman Daly the father of ecological economics died on 28 October 2022. He was 84.

Tributes have been posted in newspapers and online around the world. Herman was one of the first to shine a light on the inconsistencies contained within classical economic theory. Trouble is, this theory has taken hold in the minds of powerful interests who have and continue to use it as the basis of economic practice. He said in response to this way of thinking – that is in denial when it comes to acknowledging that the earth is the source of all our social and financial actions – that we are all now trapped within the clutches of exploitation and waste – treating the earth as if it were a business in liquidation.

We can’t hope to capture the full extent of Herman Daly’s contribution to challenging the status quo. We can however, provide you with some references for further reading.

In: The inconvenient truth of Herman Daly: There is no economy without environment, Jon D.Erickson, Professor of Sustainability Science and Policy, University of Vermont (11 November 2022) writing The Conversation, said: Herman Daly had a flair for stating the obvious. When an economy creates more costs than benefits, he called it “uneconomic growth.” But you won’t find that conclusion in economics textbooks. Even suggesting that economic growth could cost more than it’s worth can be seen as economic heresy.

We mourn the death of a giant
Herman Daly, co-founder of the discipline of ecological economics, champion of the steady-state economy and a long-time voice for sanity on population. We add our praise to the chorus.
The Overpopulation Project, 8 November 2022

Herman Daly Challenged the Economic Gospel of Growth

Herman Daly never gave up working for what he believed to be in the best interests of the children of the future. He talked about planting a seed from which future generations might find inspiration to build on the knowledge he had gained.

Herman Daly might be dead as a physical body but his ideas and those who came to know and work with him, who are still living, will build on this, and continue to build the framework for a more just human understanding of how things really work in nature. We must copy and mimic how the biosphere behaves and by extension put these into practices, passing them on to our children and those who follow.

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To die of old age – something you can’t do in NSW

It’s official. Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, the late Queen of the UK has died of old age. We know so, because that’s what is stated on the Death Certificate at item 10: Cause of Death: Old Age.

Queen Elizabeth II died on September 8. (Reuters: Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Good on the Brits for retaining this description, because it has been taken off the list in NSW. With the medicalisation of our ending of days, we have to die of something like a heart attack or cardiac arrest or the failure of some other organ in the body.

For centuries, people have died of old age, and still do. But now in these times of co-morbidities, we die of multiple causes of which one will get the nod and be recorded on the Death Certificate, regardless of whether it was old age, which for many elderly people will be the case.

According to a story posted on Friday 30 September, Queen Elizabeth II’s death certificate says the monarch died of ‘old age’.

A photo issued by the National Records of Scotland, shows the death certificate of Queen Elizabeth II. (AP: National Records of Scotland)

The country’s longest-reigning monarch died peacefully, at the age of 96, at Balmoral Castle, her summer home in the Scottish Highlands, on September 8.

And the certificate recorded her time of death as 3:10pm — three hours before her death was publicly announced.

The Queen, who spent 70 years on the throne, had been suffering from what Buckingham Palace had called “episodic mobility problems” since the end of last year, forcing her to withdraw from nearly all her public engagements.

Her certificate of death was registered by her daughter, Anne, The Princess Royal, on September 16.

Read the full story as published by the ABC at this link: Death Certificate says Queen died of ‘old age’.

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Getting on with it – for the sake of those who come next

Here we go again. Another report that tells the same old story of Australians not getting on with getting properly prepared for their end-of-life trip.

Report by the GroundSwell Project 2022

Rather than go on with another notation of why we need to pay attention to our aging and our future frailty that will eventually lead to our ending of days, we simply provide a link to the latest report that contains this information we all need to be aware if we are to be sufficiently informed about where we are at as a society .. for instance 35 per cent have got it done, 28 per cent are thinking about getting it done, while almost a third, 31 per cent are not intending getting their affairs sorted any tine soon.

What’s the best time to get our stuff sorted? Ten years ago. Five years ago. Twelve months ago. Last week. And the next best time is now. All we can do is send a message and urge us all if we haven’t done so, is get on with Getting Dead Set.

Report by the GroundSwell Project prepared for Dying to Know Day 2022.

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Pushing back against denial – the Death Cafe approach

Talking about death was once normal, then it became un-normal – taboo – with the advent of what is now a death denying society. But the pushback is gaining momentum.

Picture: Mitchell Jansen

In: Tassie Death Cafe helps visitors come to terms with the ‘morbid fear’ surrounding life’s end, Tamara Glumac, (ABC News, 28 Aug 2022) tells how ‘Mitchell Jansen has feared death from a young age.’

The 25-year-old has suffered anxiety and panic attacks over his own mortality.

“I’ve had a very morbid fear of death because I have cystic fibrosis, so death kind of looms over my head a bit,” Mr Jansen said. “It was a constant fear, I was always filled with dread, it was like I’m going to die young, and with the pandemic I’m at high risk.”

A trip to the Tassie Death Cafe in Hobart has lightened the load.

“I feel like I’ve been heard and it feels like a weight is off my shoulders. I have a sense of what I want when I die,” Mr Jansen said. “Even though [death] is a very common fear it still feels lonely and just being around like-minded people, where I can have my morbid jokes, is a bit nicer.”

The death of his great-grandmother prompted Mr Jansen to take a trip to the death cafe, and has also created a desire to work in the funeral industry.

Tassie is fortunate to not only have Death Cafes but also coffin clubs that help prise open death’s door

At the Community Coffin Club, laughter, music, food and shared experience abound as members build their understanding of “death literacy” — and their own bespoke coffins. A man stands inside an upright blue coffin designed to look like Dr Who’s tardis.

The death cafe — a monthly catch-up over coffee and cake, often between complete strangers — has been running since 2019.

It was set up by end-of-life doulas Leigh Connell and Lynn Redwig, who got talking about the concept at a “dying to know” expo.

“It’s very simple. The aim is really to come together and talk about death and dying in a safe space,” Ms Connell said.

“It’s an opportunity for people to talk about something that’s quite taboo, and there are people who do want to speak about it, but they get pushback.”

Read more here: Tassie Death Cafe

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Normalising grief, a normal response to death and loss

A lot a attention is given to grief as if it deserves more consideration than other aspects of life. But does it and should it?

Traumedies acknowledge there is joy alongside grief. SBS

In: A Beginner’s Guide to Grief: joy and sadness belong together in this new Australian ‘traumedy’Sian Mitchell, Lecturer, Film, Television and Animation, Deakin University (The Conversation, Published: August 31, 2022), she reviews a new film soon to join a number of others that have addressed this subject in recent times.

Review: A Beginner’s Guide to Grief, directed by Renée Mao

We all experience grief in different ways. It is a powerful force that can affect our daily lives, making the simplest task feel difficult, at best, or entirely insurmountable at worst.

Grief is messy, surprising, revealing and honest at different times and all at once.

This is what lies at the heart of the SBS comedy A Beginner’s Guide to Grief.

 A Beginner’s Guide to Grief joins recent series like Netflix’s Never Have I Ever (2020-) and After Life (2019-2022) that centre on grieving characters who have lost loved ones and are left behind to cope in the aftermath.

These shows have been labelled “traumedies”: narratives that explore feelings of loss and pain presented through a comedic lens.

Traumedies can offer audiences an opportunity for catharsis, processing our feelings of loss and grief – particularly at a time of so much social and cultural upheaval.

The full story here: Beginners guide by Sian Mitchell.

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