In Mexico, Dia de los Muertos – or the Day of the Dead – is a tradition hundreds of years old to remember and celebrate the dead.
But palliative care charity Shannon’s Bridge is using the colourful and contemplative celebration to break down the taboo of discussing how we want to die.
A two day celebration continues on Friday at its End of Life Care Hub in Creswick, with face painting, sugar skulls and meditation classes acting as a true “conversation starter”, according to founder Jeremy McKnight.
Started at the urging of his daughter Shannon as she was dying in 2016, the organisation provides training for palliative care volunteers, loans vital equipment and assists with medications to ease the pain of those at the end of their lives.
“It’s about raising awareness, because death and dying is taboo still,” he said. “It’s not a morbid subject, it’s realistic, so find out what you can or tell people what your wishes are.”
Shannon’s Bridge even has its own ‘ofrenda’ for the occasion – an alter with pictures of the dead – to provide somewhere for locals to remember loved ones.
Dr Claire Hepper, Shannon’s doctor as she lived out her last days at her Talbot home, said they’d found that “anything using a bit of art or humour” gets people more willing to talk about death.
“It’s life, and we’re all going to go there,” she said. “But the beautiful thing about Dia de los Muertos is that it’s a whole family approach.
“It’s recognising that just because someone is dead, doesn’t mean you relationship with them ends. They remember them and honour that they’re coming back.”
The community has rallied around the unusual celebration, with Creswick Golf Club members heading out for a round on Thursday adorned in Mexican skull make up.
Club president Russell Cartledge said having an important resource “start and grow from Creswick” was amazing, and encouraged these seemingly hard conversations to happen.
“Considering we get so many visitors at our RACV Goldfields Resort course, the more of them that get the brochures and take them home, the better,” he said.
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