In her book Time to Live: The Beginner’s Guide to Saying Goodbye, Instant Apostle author, Ann Clifford, addresses the personal and practical elements of dying, acknowledging the pain and confusion that accompany loss, but also helping the reader to conquer their fears and to view death as a portal to the future.
Ann, why did you want to write a book about death?
The one thing we know for certain in life is that we will die. This will happen to 100% of us yet most of us do not want to talk about it. As Christians we have a glorious perspective. The reason the idea came to write the book was whilst working with the over 60s for a period of years. Some guests to our free monthly tea party were 70s, 80s and yet they would not talk about dying. I wrote the book to start the conversation and was thrilled publication made it available to these people I fell in love with. I wanted to give a spiritual perspective, but also make it practical. To chart a pathway through all the different things to think about well before our own death appears on the horizon.
We seem to be in denial about the obvious fact that all of us will die. Why do we find it so difficult to talk about?
Fear of the unknown is a big factor and denial becomes our default position. In our culture death is the worst thing that can happen. Millions of pounds are being spent to overcome the final frontier – death. Deep down we do not want to die. Only one person died and rose from the dead, and he says resurrection is available to all. We prepare for every major event in our lives why not death? It can be a blessing not only for ourselves but so to for our loved ones.
In your book you talk about ‘dying well’. What do you mean by that?
Dying is not simply about ourselves. Whether we are married or single we have family, friends and loved ones. Our death will be difficult for them. How we leave this life they will remember for the rest of their lives. We can leave people with many difficult emotions and memories. What is our memory of a loved one dying?
A sense of completion in our grief is helpful. Space made for important words to be spoken – forgiveness extended, bitterness lanced, love revealed in action, perhaps writing a letter. It takes time for the wounding of death to heal, so a positive death will allow the wonderful memories to resurface sooner. Closure is just as important even if there are no great memories. Many people say once they have organised their lives – sorted their wills; set up a Power of Attorney; written an Advanced Decision; enjoyed creativity choosing who to give what; that they feel more peaceful. It gives permission for everyone to talk, to cry, to laugh together. The grief of loved ones is something they must live with on this earth. What if we could be brave and courageous about death and leave a positive and healthy legacy in the lives and minds of all whom we love?
How might a more open approach to the subject of death, enhance the lives we are living now?
My personal experience in writing on this subject has enriched my life beyond measure. Reading the promises of God in the Bible has made me realise that this life on earth is a mere appetiser to all that God has for me. When I die not only will I be in the presence of the person I have loved since I was nineteen, but I shall rule and reign with Him in a new heaven and a new earth alongside many loved ones. A fresh vision of my future brings a renewed perspective to my present.
At first sight, your second book with Instant Apostle could not be more different to your first. It’s a beautifully illustrated coffee table art book, yet the title ‘Where is God in our Twenty-First Century World?’ poses a profound question. Do you see any similarities between these two projects?
What an interesting question. God is present in our dying. It is a sacred moment. For me God is everywhere in unexpected and hidden places. In our deepest fears, our most celebrated highs, and everything in between. Whenever or wherever take time to seek and you will find. Giving artists the opportunity to respond to this spiritual theme was a joy not only for us but also for them and their work allows us to continue to ponder the theme.
How did you come to be involved with the Chaiya Art Awards?
My dear friend Katrina with whom I have journeyed on many adventures came with the idea and it took a nano second for me to want to support her. The first competition was equivalent to boarding a roller coaster. We struggled to get the competition up and running then found ourselves overwhelmed by a response of over 450 entries. Nearly 3,000 people visited the eleven-day exhibition at the gallery@oxo on the Southbank. I had six weeks to write the book as I had to wait for the finalists to be chosen, and in the middle of the exhibition I moved house.
Our plan is to continue the competition and the new theme will be announced at Easter 2019 on www.chaiyaartawards.co.uk, and the exhibition will be at the same gallery Easter 2020. Please visit us as either Katrina or myself will be there.
What is your hope when people read your words in this book and ponder the meaning of the artwork?
I hope that people find pieces of art they enjoy, art that makes them pause, art that gives them new thoughts to savour and chew on. I hope my words have the same effect. If God is real and alive today, then how might He reveal himself to each one of us?