When was the last time you had a conversation about death? I’ll bet even the word makes you feel uncomfortable and you’ve never wondered why. The Wellcome Book Prize contacted me a while ago asking if I’d like to be a part of the prize by reading a chosen book and giving my thoughts, I said yes and then something happened.
Then, during the shortlist announcement, something happened. My great nan died, it wasn’t sudden, she was 96 years old and yet the thought of her dying terrified me. So much so I didn’t want to go to the hospital, I didn’t want to see her dying but, why? It’s a natural part of life and she was comfortable.
In Kathryn Mannix’s book, she uses her years of work in palliative care to start a conversation about death and dying. She tells us what the patterns are and how, when most people die, they are not aware, they slip into a state of unconsciousness before passing. Of course, we know this doesn’t happen to everyone but for the majority.
I didn’t expect to get so much from a book about death. Kathryn discusses techniques for coping, the use of CBT and stories of the inspiring people that she has met and the impact they had on her. She talks about her own emotions, how the deaths of her own family members impacted her.
This book is going to start so many conversations and while, initially, I was a little anxious about how I’d feel reading it, it’s important. Do I recommend reading it in one sitting? No. There are so many emotions to process and it is quite a heavy read but it’s also one that I found oddly calming.
We are so afraid of something that happens to us all. Am I scared of dying? Of course, I am but is that fear partly to do with the fact people won’t talk about it? Probably. So I started conversations with my boyfriend, colleagues and friends and, after the initial shock, they opened up. I hope, as Kathryn wishes, we can start more conversations and take a bit of the fear away. That we can start to simply say that someone died rather than ‘passed’ or ‘lost their fight’.
I am so grateful to the team at the Wellcome Book Prize for asking me to take part and sending me a copy of the book. It’s such a different and fascinating read that I’m going to be recommending to so many people. I’m also hoping to get a few more of the shortlist read by the end of the year.
You can find out more about the Wellcome Book Prize here! Keep your eyes peeled for the winner.