The First Dying Matters Conference in Pembrokeshire.

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Did you know that May was the month for Dying Matters week, a week of celebrating life and of planning our inevitable death.

Luke Conlon has worked in this field for many years and is a keen exponent of planning before you need to. He opened the conference he had organised, on the 17th May as part of a week of art ,discussion, events and advice. The day was well attended by a many and diverse mix of professionals and other interested parties, at the Archive in Prendergast Haverfordwest.

Luke talked about compassionate communities and the need for us to be open about death, to consider our own wishes and to make those wishes known to our loved ones and to the professionals who may be involved in our care. He went on to introduce Tanya, Bettina and Rosie They explained how their friend Nicole had planned every aspect of her care, from how to manage her last days to her funeral wishes and beyond.

The women talked about the 5 plus supporters who carried out Nicoles wishes with great kindness and respect. The things that were important to her , her passion for the earth, what foods and drink  she would want if she could not communicate, the sheets she would lie on, the oils and candles she wanted and her ultimate burial on a friends land in the cardboard coffin she bought on line  before she died.

They described that her son and his friend dug her grave and they told us with respect and humour  how they had emptied the Coop of ice to keep her body cool once she had died.

Not to everyones’ taste…all the detailed planning…but it was clearly an experience of great love and devotion for these friends, who willingly gave their time and attention to make Nicoles wishes a reality. They also explained that the whole ‘home made’ funeral cost around £500, a fraction of the cost of a funeral home run event.

The day continued with discussions and Gaz from Get the Boys a Lift spoke to us about the work that his friends have been doing to bring awareness about suicide and mental health issues into the open.

We wrote about this exciting project in a while ago and were impressed how an idea that came out of a group of friends wanting to address issues that they saw as affecting their age group could grow so quickly. It has since gathered more momentum and continues to do so with it’s centre in Haverfordwest  where people can get a coffee, advice and  support and clothing designed by the team that goes a long way to funding the much needed work that they are doing.

Plenty of opportunity was allowed for questions and discussion and speakers gave pause for thought.

Dr Penny Sartori, who worked as a nurse for 21 years, 17 of those being in Intensive Care, spoke on her work looking into NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE ( NDE’s). Her experience and skill in her role as an intensive care staff nurse gave her the  insight and the opportunity to conduct unique and extensive research into the subject. She was awarded a PhD for her research into in 2005. 

During the day Luke explained that he is developing a range of activities in 4 local communities in Pembrokeshire, namely Saundersfoot, Pembroke/Manorbier, Letterston and Brynberian. These thought provoking, fun and interactive activities are aimed at enabling the people living in these communities to talk more about living well and dying well (Death, Dying, Loss and Caring).

“This is a Community Developmental approach to a real Public Health issue and all our activities enable communities to enhance their collective Social Capital (in terms of Trust, Empathy and Cooperation).” He explained.

He also arranges workshops on DIY Funerals. “The cost of arranging funerals is ever increasing and pushing many families into debt, this fun workshop will aim to support people to plan an affordable funeral and address the many myths around funeral planning”.

Check out Lukes website for more information:

Dr Penny Sartori’s website :

Get The Boys a Lift’ on Facebook or

Shop/meeting space: 7a Dew Street, Haverfordwest, SA61 1ST

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Kitty Parsons

Kitty Parsons

In love with the sea, gifted with an almost superhuman ability to bring chaos into order. Mostly tired and often to be found hibernating through the winter on the sofa, and bobbing about in the ocean in summer.

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