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Ian’s hospice work shows how people need to talk about death

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: May 22, 2014

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‘NOT everyone is comfortable dealing with the idea of their own death.’

These were the words of Branston man Ian Leech after he spent a week speaking to people across the area, encouraging them to talk about the subject.

In his work for St Giles Hospice as community engagement officer, Mr Leech also welcomed a recent documentary addressing attitudes to death by comedian Billy Connolly.

One of the themes of Connolly’s Big Send Off, aired on ITV earlier this month, was encouraging people to talk about death – and this subject is reflected in St Giles’ work in breaking down taboos surrounding dying.

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As well as providing specialist care for people living with cancer and other serious illnesses, St Giles Hospice works to change attitudes towards death and bereavement in the community.

Mr Leech said: “One of the reasons people don’t talk about death is because they feel they can’t.

“A lot of the time, if you give people permission to talk about death and dying they will.

“Not everyone is comfortable dealing with the idea of their own death, but if they can then it can be really helpful.

“Something as simple as making a will, for example, can make a real difference to their family.

“Making a will and putting plans in place is a very selfless thing to do.

“It’s not about you, it’s about the people who are there after you’ve gone.”

Mr Leech’s understanding of how helpful planning for death can be comes from his experience of the passing of his daughter Mel six years ago.

He said: “She thought about her death and what she wanted and it made it easier for all of us – me, my wife and our younger daughter.

“We always say the one thing we definitely got right was her funeral, because she planned it.

“It still wasn’t a nice thing to have to do, but it was made so much easier by knowing what she wanted.”

Part of the positive effect of a documentary such as Connolly’s is that it raises awareness of the topic, as well as opening people’s minds to different ideas, Mr Leech added.

“People have a set idea of what their funeral has to be, rather than what it could be, and the fact that this programme showed different options is fantastic,” he said.

As part of Dying Matters Awareness Week, Mr Leech gave a talk to participants in a wellbeing project in Burton about the importance of making a will and having the right care at the end of life.

“A lot of the time people don’t realise the choices they have,” he said.

“Sometimes people who initially don’t want to talk about it end up telling you what they want for their funeral and what music they want playing.

“It’s one thing we can all be certain of. We all know, whether we’re the Queen in Buckingham Palace or a homeless person on the street, that we’re going to die.

“That’s why it’s important to talk about it and plan for it. I’ve planned for mine – I have an advanced care plan that makes my wishes clear, I’ve written my will and I know what I want. I’m happy with it and, in a funny way, I almost feel as if I’m on top of it.”

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