Hutt at Heart
Hutt City Council Mayor Campbell Barry and Deputy Mayor Tui Lewis with other Council and Te Omanga Hospice staff, with the Before I Die display at Petone Library

Hutt City Libraries bring conversations about death to life

Trying Chatham Island oysters, seeing the back of COVID-19, and going to the moon are some of the aspirations Hutt Valley residents have chalked up on a wall inside Petone Library this week as part of a global art project aiming to bring to life conversations and community action around death, dying and grief.

Te Omanga Hospice, Hutt City Libraries and Upper Hutt Library are inviting people to take part by finishing the statement, ‘Before I Die I want to…’

Hutt City Council Deputy Mayor Tui Lewis believes that with everything going on in the world, it’s a timely reminder to take care of our family and friends.

“COVID-19 and lockdown gave us some space to reflect on what is important in our lives, and remember to connect and value our loved ones. We are all going to move on one day, but we can make it easier for our neighbourhoods or those around us and each other if we are there to support one another through the journey.”

The Before I Die campaign is part of a goal to turn the Hutt Valley into a Compassionate Community like those found in Australia and the UK. The public health approach to dying, death and bereavement encourages and integrates social connections and networks in the community to support people at the end of their lives and to support their whānau.

A global conversation

Originally created by artist Candy Chang in New Orleans following the death of a loved one, there are now more than 5,000 walls across the world, in 78 countries and 36 languages. There have only been two previously in New Zealand; the last in Newtown in September 2013.

Many people find it hard to talk about death, but the reality is ten out of ten of us are going to die,” says Te Omanga Hospice Education Coordinator Raelee Jensen. “It is a normal part of life and we all have a role to play in caring for others.”

The Hospice provides specialist care for people living with a terminal or life-limiting illness, but Jensen says palliative care doesn’t just belong in a hospice. “Our hope is the Hutt Valley becomes a compassionate community where we all support each other at the end of life and in grief.”

Petone Community Library and Heritage Services Manager Liz Castle agrees. “Palliative care is everybody’s responsibility; one of the many reasons we are supporting the Before I Die project.”

Head to the libraries listed below during August to join the conversation.

Wall locations:

  • 3 – 9 August: Petone Library
  • 10 – 15 August: Lower Hutt War Memorial Library
  • 7 – 23 August: Wainuiomata Library
  • 24 – 30 August: Upper Hutt Library

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