REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: Facing death with a smile

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by Ballarat Courier reporter Melanie Whelan.

We're all the same underneath, particularly at Halloween. Photo: Shutterstock

We're all the same underneath, particularly at Halloween. Photo: Shutterstock

SKULL face-painting on end-of-life care champions in Creswick, just outside Ballarat, created shock value. Not in the spooky kinda way.

Most people in town and travelling through town have been talking about the event for days.

That was the point. A conversation starter to get people talking about death, dying and - right at the core - about living life to the fullest.

Gradually the furrowed brows of those concerned melted and they embraced the face-paint, or at least the concept. Decorative calaveras (skulls) for Mexican Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, show we are all the same underneath.

TALKING POINT: Creswick golfers get into the spirit for Day of the Dead. Picture: Ashleigh McMillan

TALKING POINT: Creswick golfers get into the spirit for Day of the Dead. Picture: Ashleigh McMillan

The festival has its roots in Catholic and Aztec traditions with an ofrenda (altar) to place photos of loved ones who have passed. In Creswick this included Shrek, the green budgerigar of a visiting primary school pupil.

This is a celebration. Plenty of sugar, dress-up and parties are involved.

For Melbourne couple Angela and Tim Black, this party was one worth venturing into regional Victoria for. It was a way they could remember and talk about their little boy Lachlan without the usual awkwardness or "heavy" feelings.

Other cultures hide their knives for All Souls' eve to avoid injuring a visiting souls, most offer food.

End-of-life champions from Shannon's Bridge, who hosted the Creswick event, want us talking about death more. Rising demand for palliative care across Australia shows we are considering more how we want to die.

REFLECT: Tim and Angela Black, with five-year-old daughter Ashley take comfort in remembering their son in a bright, fun event. Picture: Lachlan Bence

REFLECT: Tim and Angela Black, with five-year-old daughter Ashley take comfort in remembering their son in a bright, fun event. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Dr Claire Hepper says regional Australians are talking about death more, but not in the way politicians expect. We casually mention it at the pub: "oh, I'd never want that at my funeral". Or chatting in craft groups, perhaps when talking about others' experience. Or we make a throwaway comment while watching television with family.

But this helps offers insight to what we truly want.

Dr Hepper says we need not dwell on the subject but talking can helped loved ones process grief, knowing your wishes. Then you can get on with living life to its fullest.

INSPIRATION: Two-time Olympian Shaun Creighton says Eliud Kipchoge breaking two hours for the marathon has challenged what's possible. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

INSPIRATION: Two-time Olympian Shaun Creighton says Eliud Kipchoge breaking two hours for the marathon has challenged what's possible. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

If you want some different inspiration, The Canberra Times sports journalist David Polkinghorne offers advice to keep in mind for when your lungs are burning and your legs are heavy when running en masse in the nation's capital on Sunday.

The man who broke the sub-two-hour marathon barrier would have broken The Canberra Times Fun Run five and 10-kilometre records - and kept up that pace for another 32km.

You know it hurts a little just thinking about it, but hey - seize the day! By the way, entries are still open.

In Ballarat, we'll be doing just this for our city's fun run in a fortnight's time.

Melanie Whelan

Journalist, Ballarat Courier

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