New book helps people prepare for death’s ‘gifts’

Zenith Virago, co-author of a new book, The Intimacy of Death and Dying.
Zenith Virago, co-author of a new book, The Intimacy of Death and Dying.
As ironic as it may sound, death can offer a lot of ‘gifts’, according to Byron Bay’s Zenith Virago.

Not so much for the dearly departed, said the celebrant and caretaker to the dying, but for family and friends.

They might find it hard to see them straight away, but with a good preparation before a death, the ‘gifts’ will become more visible further down the track, she said.

It’s that preparation that is covered in a book called ‘The Intimacy of Death and Dying’ that Zenith has co-authored with Claire Leimbach and Trypheyna McShane.

The book contains very personal and moving stories from 20 people – 12 from the North Coast – who speak from the heart about the deaths of mothers, husbands, teenagers, children and babies.


It also offers simple and practical advice for anyone dealing with death, which the authors say doesn’t always have to be sad and scary.

Zenith, who is the co-founder of the Natural Death Centre Inc in Australia, said everybody asked to write their story had done so willingly and ‘found a great satisfaction’ in doing so.

Zenith said that as well as telling their stories, they were also able to write about what they had learnt from the deaths.

“My work is about encouraging dialogue about the inevitability of death with family and friends, so when it happens they know what you would like,” she said.

“The more they know what you want, the happier they will be because they are fulfilling your wishes.

“Little things they might say like ‘I would love this piece of music (at my funeral)’, or ‘I would love my ashes scattered at Wategos’.


“It makes the experience of dealing with death easier because you are acting with generosity to give someone something that they want.

“I am consulting with people before they die, or their families.

“Then I am helping people at the time of death (dealing) with the body and helping them develop a funeral that is meaningful for them.

“Then I talk to them in their bereavement afterwards.”

The Intimacy of Death and Dying, published by Allen & Unwin, is being launched tonight in Sydney and locally at the Byron Bay Writers Festival in August.

Zenith is holding a public talk at the Byron Bay Community Centre on Thursday, June 25 at 7 pm.

She will be joined there by co-author Claire Leimbach and some of those whose stories are featured in the book.

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