One year on from the launch of the Art of Dying Well, the project has won nationwide recognition, picked up an award, and most importantly made a real difference to the audience for which it was created.
On 1 November 2016 the Art of Dying Well launched at the All Saints Day Mass at Westminster Cathedral. The project immediately attracted praise and positive media attention with its promise to offer a helping hand to those grappling with issues around death and dying.
Written to address not only the needs of the dying, but to include relatives and loved ones, and those caring for the dying, it also aimed to tackle the subject of spiritual care from a Catholic perspective.
One year on and the team have spoken at several conferences, with teachers, prison chaplains, at universities, seminaries and hospices across the country.
The project has been part of an art exhibition, and recently won a prestigious Jerusalem Award in recognition of the Art of Dying Well podcast. More importantly though the project has made a real difference to the audience for which it was created.
A user who received one of our first prayer cards, prayed the ‘Commendation of the Dying’ with his dying father and again read the prayer at the funeral. He tells us that his family often uses the prayer as a comforting reminder that Christians all over the world stand in support of the grieving.
A journalist described how she used the Art of Dying Well resources as her mother approached death, saying: “As my mother was Catholic, I arranged for a priest to come visit her and give her spiritual guidance. They prayed and she received the last sacrament…This ritual was brought back to my attention recently by a wonderful initiative of the Catholic Church – The Art of Dying Well.”
Karen T, a Stage III cancer survivor shared: “I am so pleased and grateful to have heard about this site. I have survived Stage III cancer so far, but never know when it may return, and to have all this advice, assistance and ‘accompanying’ in one place is wonderful.
“Also, I was so weak that physically holding a book to read it, even a small book, was impossible, as I had no strength in my hands at all. But I can prop my iPad on my lap and just tap it lightly, to read what I want. Very grateful.”
Dr Kathryn Mannix spoke about the Art of Dying Well on a BBC Radio 5 Live phone-in. There was a huge response, with listeners contacting the programme with their reactions:
Jane: “My dad died a week ago. He knew he was dying; we were with him. It was very comforting to hear the doctor today.”
Jenny: “What a beautiful and comforting description of death. I’ve been present through the last days and death of both my parents, and it would have been so helpful to have known this.”
Anonymous: “Moving, compassionate description of a good death by a caring doctor. Such an important item, thank you.”
About the Art of Dying Well, the Director of Public Health for Hertfordshire, Jim McManus, said:
“It speaks powerfully into this awkward, immature silence around death. And I believe it has the potential to alleviate much suffering. I’ve seen it used with clinicians, families and patients. And I have seen it be a powerful help.”
Allan Doyle, Funeral Director, said: “Thank you for this wonderful resource. We will certainly direct people to it because caring for those who are ill is, thankfully, an increasing part of what we do”
The Bishop Sponsor for the Project, Bishop John Sherrington said: “It became apparent that an important part of the contribution we were making was to stimulate a spiritual underpinning to many people’s understanding of death. Not all users are practicing Catholics, or religious in any way, but discussing the spirituality in death has encouraged people to talk about this taboo subject and prompted questions of faith in those who do not believe.
He continued: “These examples demonstrate the diversity of the outreach of the project. We engage in all parts of the Public Square, from actual public spaces, to the virtual and through a variety of Medias. This can be seen through our monthly podcast, which speaks of and with a wide range of experts, practitioners and religious from all communities, on the topics surrounding death and dying.
Now the walls of separation are down, we look forward to another year of death-positive conversation around the Art of Dying Well, and a future in which our understanding of death enables us to live our lives in the best way now.
Read more about why we created the Art of Dying Well.