A large cube with a special purpose will soon be on public view in downtown Truro.
Cindie Smith and Sylvia Estey – with help on construction from Smith’s husband Michael Fleming – have created a four-sided "Before I Die" board for the community. It will be located on the lawn next to the Truro Farmers’ Market for the summer. Beginning May 4, those passing by are invited to pick up a piece of chalk and complete the sentence "Before I die I want to…"
“I saw the video about this a couple of years ago and it really spoke to me,” said Smith. “Now I feel the time is right to launch this.
“We want to encourage people to think about how they want to live until they die, and we want this to begin some conversations around what makes life worthwhile and about end-of-life.”
Smith understands how important it is to talk about death. Her daughter, Maggie, died 25 years ago, just before her fifth birthday.
“I knew Maggie would die soon and I needed to talk about it, but I was afraid that I would be judged by raising the issue - that my need to talk about Maggie’s coming death would indicate that I had given up or that I didn’t want to parent a dying child anymore,” she said.
More recently, Estey lost her husband Dave to colon cancer. Because he expected to have more time, some of their last hours together were spent making medical decisions.
“As a society, we talk about every milestone in our lives except death,” said Smith. “We need to normalize conversations around it.”
She believes the recent Death Cafés, advance care planning workshops and A Date with Death event demonstrate people’s desire to discuss issues around end-of-life.
“Before I Die is another way to encourage people to talk,” said Serena Lewis, a grief advocate. “I’ve seen these boards in other communities and I love the creativity and diversity. Sometimes the message is about a destination, sometimes a relationship; some are grandiose, and some are a little silly.
“It gets people thinking and talking. It brings discussion into a public place and starts to normalize it.
“We have to extend the conversation to building grief awareness. Grief is about remembering and supporting. We don’t want to forget the people in our lives.”
Lewis and others will be sharing information at the ‘Before I Die’ board on Saturday.
After the board is filled with people’s messages, photos will be taken and added to a Before I Die Colchester Facebook page. The messages will then be erased to provide space for new ones.
“Discussion is important,” added Smith. “It’s the best way to have the quality of life – and the quality of death – you want.”
More information can be found on the Before I Die website.
The video that inspired Smith and Estey can be seen below: