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Way to Go! Poetry, Music and Conversation on the End of Life

The unique event with Pauline Le Bel, Chris Corrigan, and Matthew van der Giessen will take place this Sunday

Way to Go! challenges the image of the Grim Reaper and the belief that death is something that happens to you.

Way to Go! seeks to replace this with the idea that dying is something you do. And like any other skill, it requires thought and practice. We begin with poetry and music as they speak to the heart of things, and open us up to the beauty — as well as the sorrow — of living and dying.

In partnership with Bowen Island Public Library, I invite you to join Chris Corrigan, Matthew van der Giessen and me on Sunday, November 20 from 1:30 to 3:30 pm at the Library Annex for music, poetry and thoughtful, facilitated conversation about the end of life.

For the past many years, I’ve been writing poems about aging, dying and death. My end of life education began years ago when I cared for my older sister who was diagnosed with a terminal illness. It was a transformative, soulful time.

I began to wonder what it would be like to allow death to enter the room and be acknowledged, rather than shunned. Could we chat with open hearts and minds about our fears and hopes? Could we act as people who are all going to die and have one chance to do it? Perhaps we could come to see death, not as the enemy, but as a call to live life more fully, to love more thoughtfully.

As you arrive at the Library Annex on November 20, Matthew van der Giessen will be playing the cello. I will read my reflective, and at times, lighthearted poems about the end of life.

Chris Corrigan will be our conversation guide. Like a fine jazz musician, Chris will riff off the themes suggested in my poems and present ideas for our contemplation.

“We will be asking questions,” says Chris, “to help us get ready for the Big Show, and to gather the things we need: courage, awareness, community, language and imagery.” Questions to carry with us into future conversations.

Way to Go! is not a therapy session nor a grief session, although grief may come up and will be honoured. We will enter into a deep exploration of the language we use to talk about dying, and discover ways of speaking with compassion and honesty about this sacred time of life.

Not just for old folks contemplating their own death but also for younger people dealing with the death of their parents, siblings, friends. Way to Go! is meant to be the start of personal and community dialogue around end of life. The hope is that the conversation continues afterward with other events or meetups, in whatever way moves us.

Admission is free. Come and mingle with your neighbours. Be refreshed with hot mulled (non-alcoholic) wine and nourished by healthy savoury bites. Engage in compassionate, supportive conversation around the reality of death. 

I am deeply grateful to the Bowen Island Library for their partnership and ongoing support. Many thanks also to The Canada Council for the Arts, The Writers Union of Canada, Vancouver Foundation and Bowen Island Community Foundation.