This series of images captures a fictional journey into my own demise using the narratives that came out of a recent BA, Creative Practice essay I wrote entitled “The Key Narratives of Death, Dying and Bereavement”.
Photography is copyright Samantha Devine.
Awareness: out in the real world, I am carrying on with life (always in red). One day I become conscious of my own mortality. There is a fear of acknowledging this directly.
Discovery: Something is wrong. The elephant represents the outward silence, the candle hope and the decorated tree is presenting everything as ‘normal’. Life is now contained in a ‘black’ plant pot.
The Test: A team of skilled and dedicated professionals work to diagnose and treat my illness. A ‘keep calm and carry on’ cup of tea is on hand, but the ‘unspoken’ sits behind.
The Results: A letter confirms appointments for planned treatment to try and fix this illness. The ‘unspoken’ hangs in the background.
The Treatment: is underway and I am starting to feel very ill. The mask of brave face and silence is slipping in private. There is a realisation this this could be harder to face than I first thought.
The Talk: I try to raise the topic of death with loved ones. It was not taken very well. My family do not want to know. They are full of hope, or horror, at the thought of what could happen. They want to be positive and hear nothing of it. My clothes are turning dark as my life is fading.
The Battle: I want to so hard to get through this. like my family said I cannot give up hope. Prayers are said for me, everyone is wishing the best. Appointments and treatments continue, I still have hope that medicine can fix this. Deep down I feel utterly drained of life. What is left is my positive mental attitude and I distract myself trying everything I can as do those around me. The elephant is tucked away for now.
Acceptance: It is time to face up to this and accept I am unlikely to get better this time. What do I want, or not want for my treatment from here on? Time to sort out the paperwork, my funeral plans, wills, insurances etc., Time to talk openly with loved ones who are prepared to be involved. I must surrender to this and be prepared. My Do Not Resuscitate order is in place.
It is ok that others find this difficult and don’t want to be involved. That is not a reflection of love, it is a choice that they are free to make.
Self Care: It is important to me that I am able to look after myself for as long as possible and have some quality of life, I wish for dignity and independence. I do not want to be a burden to anyone. Death is waiting for me now but I will still do as much as I can for myself. Small daily things make all the difference and I will try my hardest to achieve them.
Letting Go: I am leaving this place. I am at home, in my own space, with minimal medical interventions. I have good pain relief and hospice nurse visits. I am surrounded by love, visitors come and go as they wish. They tell stories, read the news, and tell me what is going on in their world. Sometimes I am awake but others I am asleep. I mostly just listen to the birds outside and the chatter in the house and the room. When I go it will be peaceful. Loved ones say their goodbyes and they too are very sad but accept it is my time.
What remains is memory. Memory is within the photograph albums. It is in all the things around my home that I have collected, treasured, listened to, read and used over a lifetime. It fills my cupboards and wardrobes, it is in the things I leave behind.
What remains is with the living. Loved ones may remember me, they may visit my favourite place or my grave. They may bring my favourite flowers or light a candle in memory of me. Each day of their lives they may hear a song, smell a perfume or say something that reminds them of me. They may look up to the night sky and imagine I am somewhere with other loved ones. They may keep my ashes with them, or they may take them to be scattered somewhere special. What matters now is what matters to them, they will have their own rituals to remember me by. Above all I hope they know they were loved deeply and pass that on.