When death comes was born out of a desire to open up conversations about death and dying, and to make these topics more visible in our society. For something that touches all of our lives, it’s often difficult to talk about death or to share our experiences. While painful, death is also a force that gives shape and vitality to life. If we can accept that, we might better support people that are coming to the end of their lives, and even step into our own lives more fully.
There are so many ways to respond to death and loss, and everyone will find their own way. But creating – in all its forms – seems to be something that brings comfort, insight and acceptance for many. It can be a way to process feelings and is an act that affirms life. When death comes offers opportunities to make and share creative work, hopefully providing a resource for others facing bereavement and loss.
The first project of When death comes was an exhibition and series of events in Bristol in September and October 2015, but the work continues. For more views on death and how we talk about it please visit the blog Not Being Morbid.
When death comes collaborators
When death comes was started in 2015 by Philippa Bayley but would not be possible without the support and contributions of a number of amazing people and organisations: the members of Bristol Collective Not Being Morbid, particularly founder (and host of Bristol’s Death Cafe) Emma Edwards; photographer, curator and designer David Gillett; curator and producer David Owen; medical photographer Anni Skilton; coach, facilitator and editor Elle Harrison; funeral director and celebrant Dee Ryding; advisors, counsellors and friends Danièle leNoble, Nasreen Tadayon, Nicole Isaakson and Charlotte Mellor. And of course my family – Peter Bayley and Olivia Kingsford. Thank you for contributing so willingly and with so much heart.
About Sabine and Philippa Bayley
I was with my mother, Sabine, as her breath left her body. It was a body that had been slowly and irrevocably destroyed by Motor Neurone Disease, taking her dexterity, her speech, and finally her breath in less than 4 years.
Ten years before her diagnosis I was a beginning PhD student trying to make my tiny contribution to the fascinating and perplexing puzzle of the same illness – MND – that would later take her life. I found the condition intriguing but I wasn’t sure why; I had no idea it would touch my family so directly, or in two such different ways.
Sabine was a neuroscientist, as well as a wife and mother, a painter and ceramic artist. She drew her strength and her inspiration from nature, manifested in the beautiful sculptural ceramics that she made. Through her work she expressed a deep balance and harmony she saw in the world.
She approached her illness, too, with a scientist’s curiosity and an artist’s sensitivity. She didn’t fight it, but asked what it could help illuminate, what special insights it could offer. She died as she had lived, with curiosity, integrity and dignity.
Taking inspiration from Sabine I wanted to open a space for others to respond to their experiences of dying and living in a creative way. And I wanted to continue my own creative conversation with her, bringing together our work and things I’ve found helpful and interesting on my journey through grief and loss. You’ll find this work in the When death comes exhibition and artspace, and in the browse section of the website.
We hope you’ll create with us, and contribute to the collection of work here. Sabine would have revelled in that.