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AofA People: Caroline Rosie Dent – End of Life Doula, Death Cafe Host, Jeweller


5 Minute Read

Caroline Rosie Dent, 59, was one of our guests at the Death Dinner (screened tonight for the first time at Barts Pathology Museum). She is an end of life Doula, a jeweller and a death cafe host. Be warned – if you’re courting Caroline, never bring her cheap chocolate!

WHAT IS YOUR NAME?
Caroline Rosie Dent

HOW OLD ARE YOU?
59

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?
London, UK

WHAT DO YOU DO?
I am an end of life Doula – I walk alongside and advocate for people at the end of life, so they feel more at ease and more empowered in their dying days. I also run a Death cafe and am active in the Positive Death movement. I have been working as a creative in Textiles and jewellery for most of my life and I still make Memorial Jewellery under the alter ego Rosie Weisencrantz

TELL US WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE YOUR AGE?

I find that such a hard question to answer as I honestly feel ageless inside. I am all the ages I have ever been ….I still carry all those younger versions of myself inside me; they all pop out at different times. At the moment I feel about 26 because I am particularly happy right now

WHAT DO YOU HAVE NOW THAT YOU DIDN’T HAVE AT 25?
I have the security of owning a home which gives me choices. I see it as my passport to freedom and adventure in the future. I have a beautiful son, who teaches me constantly how to be a better person.

WHAT ABOUT SEX?
I see sex as part of a deeper intimacy. I have zero interest in casual sex, in the same way I have no interest in fast food. I dipped my toes in the tantric waters for a while, and I got a glimpse of what is possible. I’m an all or nothing kind of person. Never bring me cheap chocolate!

AND RELATIONSHIPS?
I was a serial monogamist for most of my life and have had some pretty disastrous relationships, and yet I regret none of them. They all contributed to my growth, no matter how difficult. However, now I would like something a bit more joyful, with a man who totally *gets* me and shares my irreverent spirit. I am not afraid to be alone, as that is infinitely preferable to being in a dysfunctional relationship. I quite like the idea of living separately within a relationship. I think this keeps a relationship healthy.
Relationships can be a breeding ground for resentment, and living apart can act as a deterrent to that, and help to engender greater respect for each other. As Gibran says *let there be space in your togetherness* I would like to meet a man to travel and explore the world with…that is very appealing…. someone who looks at me through loving and forgiving eyes, and a man who can allow himself to open and be loved fully in return. I would like to experience that once before I die.

HOW FREE DO YOU FEEL?
Freedom is a state of mind. Thoughts are our greatest jailers. Sometimes I feel free, other times I feel imprisoned by my fears. I feel most free when I am alone in nature, and the mental noise is switched off. Nature is my sanctuary.

WHAT ARE YOU PROUD OF?
My son is my greatest achievement. He is a beautiful being with a boundless heart, and he has taught me many things. I am proud of my creativity and my achievements as a designer. I won an international award at the peak of my career. I am also incredibly proud that I overcame my pathological fear of death phobia, that plagued me as a child and into adulthood, and now through my work with death and dying, am helping others to overcome theirs.

WHAT KEEPS YOU INSPIRED?
Questions and Ideas. My own creative process. I have loved playing with my imagination since I was tiny and have always got a kick out of my own thought processes. I see myself as a catalyst, energy-wise. I would have made a good inventor. I feel I could have done anything I put my mind to..because my creativity is limitless.

WHEN ARE YOU HAPPIEST?
I feel freest and happiest when I am cycling along the river, far away from people, listening to beautiful music on my iPod. I am also happy when I am having conversations about death and dying and see people opening up about their deepest fears for the first time. I am happy when I am in love.

AND WHERE DOES YOUR CREATIVITY GO?
It goes everywhere! Creativity is a state of mind. It’s an unstoppable force. Art writing talking feeling being. An open and curious mind is the foundation of all creativity.

WHAT’S YOUR PHILOSOPHY OF LIVING?
Be yourself, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Be able to laugh at yourself in all your glorious human imperfection. There is literally nobody who does you as well as you, so celebrate your uniqueness. We are all glorious paradoxes. Enjoy the play. It will be over soon enough. And dying? “Get curious about death before death gets curious about you” is my mantra. Don’t wait till your body and mind are failing to begin this most important work. Contemplation of Death teaches us how to live. As the Zen quote says *the cup is already broken* so live each moment fully and kiss the joy as it flies.

ARE YOU STILL DREAMING?
Always. To dream is to be alive. Never underestimate the power of your imagination. Enjoy this play.

WHAT WAS A RECENT OUTRAGEOUS ACTION OF YOURS?
No huge acts of outrageousness here…just being myself. That is my act of rebellion or outrageousness. To give an example; yesterday I lay on a bench with my head hanging upside down, and watched the passers by walking from *the ceiling of the earth* – from an upside down viewpoint walking looks like dancing. It amused me to notice that and I try not to bother myself with what others think of me. By being myself I hope I give others permission to be themselves also.

“I help people to live until that very last moment” (5 min) | Mosaic Science


1 Minute Read

mosaic-death-doulas-camilla-perkins

What makes a good death? This is just one of the questions we asked four end-of-life doulas, who have been trained to be a calm, compassionate presence for people who are dying, and their families.

How might listening to the conversations of those who confront one of life’s taboos regularly and in such a hands-on way change how you approach your own death or that of someone you love?

In this short film, we meet four British end-of-life doulas

Read the full story here: “I help people to live until that very last moment” (5 min)

How a Good Life is Connected to a Good Death


1 Minute Read

We have been focusing on living and dying, noticing that something our society struggles to accept is one simple and clear fact – all of us are going to die. 100%. No exceptions. We start to die the moment that we take our first breath and we stay steadily on that path until we take our final gasp. With that degree of certainty in our lives, haven’t we got an amazing opportunity to pick and choose from an exciting vista of options in terms of how we live that life, love that life and be that life? Of course we do! We have control over this. Every single element of it.

Why does this matter to us? I’m Elizabeth and at the grand age of 44, there I was, summer 2005, at The Big Chill, up at The Castle Stage looking at the night sky and listening to some lovely music. And I said aloud to that sky, to those stars – I hope I see you again next year. Something very real was happening to me. I was halfway through six months of chemotherapy having been diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a massive lump in my breast that we were reducing before my surgery. I was bald, although sporting a very glamorous black and gold headdress that I had fashioned for the look and for warmth. I genuinely didn’t know if I would make The Big Chill the next year and it was just too soon for me. I wasn’t scared of dying, I just wasn’t ready! The NHS served me amazingly and 11 years later I am still here, still going to festivals but with a renewed perspective around living so well in order that I can die well.

And yet, and yet – we can spend a lifetime looking over our shoulders at something that is no longer there. Attempting to stave off the ageing process, hankering for youthfulness and languishing in nostalgia. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. We could instead be exploring, reinventing, recreating and most importantly building a world alongside those who are younger than us. We could be helping them to appreciate and enjoy ‘now-stalgia”. We could be increasing our contribution to society as we grow older, in new and creative ways, instead of quietly letting the possibilities slide by.

I’m Nadia. I’m 55. Today I felt a significant era of my life was ending. My daughter, the youngest of my 3 children, was packing the last few essential items that comprise a life lived in 20kgs of baggage allowance and heading off, with her boyfriend, to live and work in Berlin. I’ve marveled at these brave and bold millennials as, over the past six months, they’ve used the family home as a base while they’ve worked insane hours, commuted hundreds of miles and spent weekdays on London sofas to enable them to undertake internships in creative industries, slog it out in minimum wage, part-time jobs and somehow, save up enough money to get them started on their dream. We all cried tears of frustration and bewilderment on June 23rd as it seemed their aspirations for the future might be ripped away from them. But if I know one thing about the women in my family, it is that we’re tenacious. We don’t give up. We refocus and get on with our plans. So this morning as I cried into my daughter’s soft shoulder, squeezing her tight as if I may never see her again; I recalled the steel and strength of my mother, my grandmother and felt secure in the knowledge that it flows in our veins too. I’m going to miss her company and gentle presence around the house. But empty nest syndrome? Hell no! I’ve got work to do and a lineage of whispering women urging me on to do it.

So, let’s begin by asking ourselves; “If I died tomorrow – not at some distant point in the future, but tomorrow – how would I like people to remember me? How many versions of me would there be to remember and what would be the legacy of each and every one?” It’s is possible to live our lives with meaning and integrity while keeping our intentions simple: we can pursue so many activities, from the altruistic to the hedonistic ( think volunteering at one end of the week and festival or spa at the other!). We can make, and share memories that, layer upon layer, create a patina of a life well lived.

As you read this now, take a moment and consider how you would begin to explore the possibility of giving your attention to your end of days and to look back upon the fourth quarter – however long you think it is going to be – and how you see yourself having lived and loved. Have you cried, hugged, made magic, made mistakes, showed vulnerability? What’s important to you?

So then we saw the poster featuring the lineup for Campfire Convention. So many people whose work we admire. And there were our names. On that poster.

“I felt suddenly overwhelmed and out of my depth. A sense of panic swept over me and yet, underneath that, I could feel a strange excitement. It all seemed strangely familiar so I sat observing for quite a while, trying to understand what was going on with me. I gradually realised that I’ve felt this way before. A few times. No. Change that to lots of times. Every time I’ve stood on the edge of a part of my life that is dying and set to re-emerge as something new. The sense of dread that one way of living is over accompanied by the quiet, insistent exhilaration that through this ending, another beginning is being made possible. In my hidden shallows, I’ve glibly called it re-inventing myself. I’ve come to know that it’s actually becoming myself. I’m learning how to live because I’m learning how to die. And, as I move towards my last quarter on this earth, I’m loving every moment of it,” said Nadia.

“Well my immediate reaction was Woah! Dying in order to live? What have we started here?  And then I remembered a recent conversation with my 15 year old nephew, Alex.  I was telling him about Campfire Convention and he asked me why I had agreed to do a workshop instead of just turning up with friends, joining in, listening to music? I’d told him that sometimes it’s important to go outside your comfort zones,” said Elizabeth.

This phrase is now a part of the lexicon of Alex who probably has about 60 years of living to do. And it’s firmly part of our learning to live and learning to die.

These are ideas that we have been kicking around for some time – usually whilst walking dogs and when in contemplative mode. But latterly, we have found ourselves being increasingly energised by our conversations and drawing others in. Sometimes the response is nervous, however generally we are finding that there is a real receptiveness to thinking in a generative way about what it means to live a good life towards a good death, particularly as we enter what we are calling the fourth quarter of life. And so we have come together to facilitate a bigger conversation with more people about these very ideas. We have been invited to run a workshop at Campfire Convention 001.

Campfire Convention 001.UK takes place from August 12th to 14th in the beautiful spot in the Golden Valley on the English side of The Black Mountains (just a few miles from the original and inspirational first Big Chill Gala event which created history 21 years ago). It is in one of the most spectacular pub settings in the UK, surrounded by a stream and open fields leading to the Cat’s Back and the foothills leading to Offa’s Dyke. Campfire is the chance for people to experience and contribute to a lively mix of talks, debates, thinkshops and discussions. When we first heard about Campfire we were really excited – this was our thing. A festival in beautiful countryside with friends, music, conversation, fire. But a chat with the founder, Pete Lawrence convinced us that we had to take ourselves outside of our comfort zone and so when asked to produce and deliver a thinkshop on this subject we stepped into a very scary space and said ‘yes’.

We are calling our thinkshop ‘A Good Life and a Good Death: The Fourth Quarter’. During this interactive thinkshop, we will be taking a lighthearted and yet profound look at our attitudes to life and death.  We will be using stories, provocations and exhortations to develop an engaging conversation through which growth and a new perspective may be possible. We hope the shared experience may even be life changing. We are expert coaches in narrative and will be sharing some of our stories, opening a safe space for surprise, shock and compassion. We will challenge, tease and help to connect each of the participants to the values that matter, then to articulate them in a way that will guide them through a fourth quarter that will really count.

Campfire Convention takes place 12-14th August. For tickets and more information go to:

Campfire Convention 001

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