Bridge for dying wish

LEGACY: Jeremy McKnight is working to improve 'death literacy' so more people are informed about dying at home. Picture: Dylan Burns
LEGACY: Jeremy McKnight is working to improve 'death literacy' so more people are informed about dying at home. Picture: Dylan Burns

MOST times, Jeremy McKnight does not remember what he has said when talking with community groups about palliative care.

He just knows it matters.

Little more than a year has passed since his 19-year-old daughter Shannon died at home in Mount Glasgow. Her dying wish was to help make palliative care easier for others in rural areas where after-hours services were stretched thin or non-existent.

She helped create Shannon’s Packs, a kit with the medicines, tools and information sheets so more people could die at home in relative comfort. 

Shannon had been in hospital for two years with leukaemia. It was with the help of Creswick-based doctors Allison O’Neil and Claire Hepper, who voluntarily visited Shannon at all hours, that she could die at home surrounded by loved ones, four days after moving out of hospital.

The McKnights have helped build her legacy into Shannon’s Bridge, working to improve death literacy and training up more rural palliative care workers across the state. Part of this is talking.

“It’s hard, a constant reminder,” Mr Knight said. “It sounds silly but I don’t remember what I speak about afterwards. I talk from the heart. I talk to people about our experience and it brings it all back, but they are the ones going through it now – we’ve already been through it – and in that moment their needs are greater than ours.”

Mr Knight said death and palliative care was still too often a taboo subject, yet 80 per cent of Australians wanted to die at home, given the choice, and less than 11 per cent actually did.

So, he shares his story and often finds one or two people approach him after a presentation, then suddenly a whole group did.

“It’s a scary area but people want to know about it,” Mr Knight said. “Talking about dying isn’t going to make it happen but you don’t need to dwell on it. Plan it and move on.”

Shannon’s Bridge will host public sessions at Creswick Community Health Centre (10am) and Maryborough Wellness Centre (1.30pm) on Friday as part of National Palliative Care week.

This story Bridge for dying wish first appeared on The Advocate - Hepburn.