november, 2021

01nov16:1516:45J Brennan: Living with Dying16:15 - 16:45 Studio 3Event type:PresentationTopic:Dying Well

Time

(Monday) 16:15 - 16:45

Location

Studio 3

Event Details

Jessie Brennan & Iona Heath: Living with Dying

This session invites more participant contributors than merely the two the subtitle might suggest. Through written words spoken aloud by Jessie, her mother Jacky, who died in 2019, will speak to the loss, grief, and qualities of aliveness that she experienced when being with and caring for her dying husband, Jessie’s father Frank, in 2003. In reading aloud Jacky’s words about Frank, Jessie invites her parents to speak to us, in different ways, from the dead. In so doing, their presence transgresses the bodily boundaries of time and space apprehended by death, in order to share their personal experiences, as a family, of living with dying. ‘Why is it that so few of our patients die what would be recognised or described as a good death? What indeed is a good death?’ These are questions posed by Iona in her book chapter Ways of Dying, in Matters of Life and Death, and are those we want to explore together in this proposed conversation format. Iona will speak to this subject from her professional experience as former General Practitioner and past President of the UK Royal College of General Practitioners. Jessie will share the poems written by her mother Jacky in the form of readings interwoven through the conversation. Drawings made by Jessie of her dying father will also accompany the readings and discussion. What, if anything, has changed in the care of the dying since the publication of Matters of Life and Death in 2008? What are the needs of the dying person, the needs of people caring for their dying loved one, and the needs of doctors supporting the care of the dying person (and their carer relatives)? In the context of a pandemic, is it possible to die a ‘good’ death – alone, without loved ones, in hospital? Is a sudden death preferable to a prolonged one, or vice versa? What is the importance of words and touch to the dying? How does controllable pain and freedom to choose impact the quality of being present to the dying process? What kind of space (practical, emotional, spiritual) and time (depth rather than durational) is needed for dying? How might poetry and art help us in turning towards the process of dying rather than away from it? What changes are needed, politically and culturally, in how dying is experienced, discussed and represented? These are just some of the urgent and intimate questions we anticipate exploring together with our audiences.

You are invited to read this article before the session.

Jessie adds: ‘I first came to know Iona’s important work on death, dying and grief at a conference on that subject at Tate Modern in 2006, at which she presented and thereafter very generously gave me her printed notes. Years later, my mother Jacky was in touch with Iona after she had received positive responses to her writing on dying during a masterclass she had contributed towards for North Devon Hospice. She was encouraged by GPs there to share it with others in the medical profession in order to support people in that field caring for their dying patients. Little did I know then that my mother’s writing would become a guide for me to follow in caring for her through her own dying process three years after a cancer diagnosis. I feel compelled to share Jacky’s writing with new audiences, with people living with dying – and we are all indeed living with dying – whom I know she would want her written offering to support.’

Speakers for this event

  • Iona Heath

    Iona Heath

    Iona Heath is a retired inner-city General Practitioner in Kentish Town in London (1975-2010) and past President of the UK Royal College of General Practitioners (2009-2012). She has written regularly for the British Medical Journal and has contributed essays to many other medical journals across the world. She has been particularly interested to explore the nature of general practice, the importance of medical generalism, issues of justice and liberty in relation to health care, the corrosive influence of the medical industrial complex and the commercialisation of medicine, and the challenges posed by disease-mongering, the care of the dying, and violence within families. Jessie Brennan is daughter of the late Jacky and Frank Brennan, parent (with her partner George) to Reuben, and an artist based between London and Devon. Her art practice explores the inter- relations between people and places, informed by their social and political contexts and a direct engagement with the individuals who occupy them. She explores ethnography and drawing (in the expanded field) as critical methodologies for revealing urban social and spatial injustices. Such methods are intended towards their productive political use in the form of exhibitions, publications and large-scale installations in the public realm. This has led her to become involved in projects, for example, with people in public housing estates and community gardens. Her books include Regeneration! (2015) and Re: development (2016).

  • Jessie Brennan

    Jessie Brennan

    Jessie Brennan is daughter of the late Jacky and Frank Brennan, parent (with her partner George) to Reuben, and an artist based between London and Devon. Her art practice explores the inter- relations between people and places, informed by their social and political contexts and a direct engagement with the individuals who occupy them. She explores ethnography and drawing (in the expanded field) as critical methodologies for revealing urban social and spatial injustices. Such methods are intended towards their productive political use in the form of exhibitions, publications and large-scale installations in the public realm. This has led her to become involved in projects, for example, with people in public housing estates and community gardens. Her books include Regeneration! (2015) and Re: development (2016).

    URL http://www.jessiebrennan.co.uk

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