CELEBRATING Dia de Los Muertos in Creswick allowed the Black family a chance to talk about their Lachlan without the familiar heavy feelings.
Day of the Dead is about as much about living life to the fullest as it is about respecting and remembering those who have died. Bright and dramatic traditional Mexican costuming and decorations aimed to get people across the region talking more about death and dying for the two-day event.
Tim, Angela and five-year-old daughter Ashley travelled from eastern Melbourne for the two-day event, hosted by end-of-life care advocates Shannon's Bridge.
A photo of their cheeky, happy Lachlan shares space on the colourful ofrenda with photos of others' loved ones from across the region. There are brightly painted sugar skulls and butterflies symbolic for carrying the visiting souls of those passed.
Lachlan was two years, seven months and 21 days old when he died with a bacterial infection. His sister Ashley was born a couple of months later but remains very aware her angel brother was still part of the family.
There are those huge days a few times each year that are hard but this is not one of those days. We can remember without the heaviness.Angela Black
"This is an opportunity when you're free to remember your loved ones but without the awkwardness and things you can't talk about much...It's a beautiful thing to be able to do that," Angela said.
"We're thinking about him all the time...There are those huge days a few times each year - Lachie's birthday, his anniversary - that are hard but this is not one of those days. We can remember without the heaviness."
The family also took part in a sold-out dinner on Friday night, All Saints' Day, with sharing platters and traditional dress-up.
This is the second time Shannon's Bridge has hosted the festival, steeped in Catholic and Aztec beliefs.
Shannon's Bridge doctor Claire Hepper said there had been a lot of uncertainty about the festival, well-known for its decorative calavera (skull) face-paint, and confusion with spooky Halloween traditions. But, this year has once again proved a valuable conversation starter.
"We need to stop talking about death as it being a taboo subject. It's not and it's gone well beyond that now in our society," Dr Hepper said.
"Research is showing us people are talking about death and their wishes more, but in informal ways, like at the pub, saying what they want like 'oh, I wouldn't want that at my funeral'."
We need to stop talking about death as it being a taboo subject. It's not and it's gone well beyond that now in our society.Dr Claire Hepper
Dr Hepper said there was an increasingly huge demand for palliative care services across the region. Ballarat Hospice Care's new purpose-built facility in Lucas opened earlier this month to better meet community needs, including counselling space.
Dia de Los Muertos at the Creswick End-of-Life Care Hub offered advanced care advice. Mostly people wanted to talk about loved ones.
Primary school pupils joined in activities on All Saints' Day, the more child-friendly festival day. Shannon's Bridge founder Jeremy McKnight said children tended to be more open to talking about death.
"They understand when someone's upset and have a real genuine compassion," Mr McKnight said. "That's a good thing."
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