That singular moment

There is always a moment when you know it’s all been worthwhile. All those months of meetings, preparations, bookings, promotion and the last minute panic. It all comes down to a moment.

In this case we were at the Hippodrome Theatre. We’d organised a death cafe, we’d watched the show Orpheus, we had taken part in a discussion about the show and our festival A Matter of Life and Death.

It had been a long day and I leant down to pick up my bag ready to go when a woman approached us.

“I want to talk to my mum about whether she has any funeral plans but I can’t,” she said. Without giving away any of her confidences this woman was struggling with a subject so many of us find difficult to broach – how to encourage the people we care about to share their hopes, fears and plans around death and dying.

Together with fellow BrumYODO member Fran, we sat and talked – about the possibilities, about how to open up these conversations about why they really matter.

We talked at length and she thanked us. And, after gathering up the leaflets, feedback forms and other paraphernalia involved in holding an event, I left knowing our festival had made a difference.

Creating a varied and interesting programme

A Matter of Life and Death is hard work, I’m not pretending it’s not. We all have jobs and we run the festival around these. It means we hold endless doodle polls and organise meetings on Sunday afternoons or we get together around someone’s kitchen table with an agenda as long as our arms and just two hours to get through it.

But every year we decide it’s all been worth it and start work on planning the next. This year we all had our moments. I took part in a wonderful Celebrating Life and Contemplating Death Cafe at Birmingham’s LGBT Centre where we exchanged funeral ideas and discussed being with our loved ones as they died while eating cake and drinking tea.

I was transported to fairy tale lands by story-teller Pyn Stockman in a darkened room at ‘Artefact’ in Stirchley. Sipping herbal teas I heard of men transformed into beasts, dragons causing havoc, people exacting vengeance and others offering forgiveness.

And I marvelled at the beautiful artwork created by local children in a competition asking them to picture their favourite moments. Organised by John Taylor Hospice and Oikos Cafe, those moments pictured meeting baby brothers for the first time, playing on the beach with best friends and visiting poorly grandparents. All precious moments of childhood.

Other members of the BrumYODO team were telling stories of Death Cafes in which complete strangers had shared incredibly powerful stories, a visit to Sandwell Crematorium which saw more visitors than anyone had believed could want to visit their local crem or workshops helping people to look ahead through will-writing and funeral planning.

Each year A Matter of Life and Death is different and each year it is full of surprises. Who would think there could be so many activities, shows and discussions linked to death and dying? But each year we have more and more organisations asking to take part and each year we meet more and more people who want to have those conversations.

I really hope the woman was able to have that conversation, or those conversations, with her mum. We’ll never know but we know that in these little moments A Matter of Life and Death is having its impact.

Which is why we are already planning next year’s festival…..