’Before I go is a nice idea full of nice touches – such as the section about favourite films and when to watch them, or the discreet blowing dandelion image used throughout.’
Title: Before I go
Author: Verna Scott-Culkin
Publisher: Verna Scott-Culkin
Reviewer: Anne-Claire Bouzanne, assistant practice and learning editor, Nursing Times
What is this about?
Although this small hardback volume looks like a book, there is nothing in it to read … yet. Its pages are blank apart from a few prompts encouraging ‘readers’ to put down in writing whatever they want to pass on to family and friends before they die. This could be memories of happy moments, favourite poems, best loved recipes, words of wisdom, memorable dates and places – as well as more prosaic stuff such as details of bank accounts and latest will.
What are the highlights?
Before I go is a multitude of ‘books in waiting’, to be written by its ‘readers’ and destined to be read by whoever they dedicate it to. Verna Scott-Culkin put it together after realising there was a gap in the market: she was looking for a book that could somehow fill the void and silence people leave behind when they died. But she could not find what she was after, so she created it. As she says herself, this does not need to be morbid and in fact is isn’t. It is life-affirming and love-asserting. We, as a society and in our private lives, are becoming better at talking about death – a change spearheaded by initiatives such as Dying Matters (http://www.dyingmatters.org/), Living Well, Dying Well (http://www.lwdwtraining.uk/) and Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief (https://www.goodlifedeathgrief.org.uk/). Before I go could well be, for some, the start of a crucial conversations with loved ones.
Strengths and weaknesses
Before I go is a nice idea full of nice touches – such as the section about favourite films and when to watch them, or the discreet blowing dandelion image used throughout. However, when you think about it, it is not much more than an enhanced notebook, for which a price of £19.99 seems rather high. And, while it does give ideas to people on what to write about, it also restricts them to the chosen topics, which might not suit everyone. A notebook from the stationery is cheaper and offers more freedom, and those with artistic flair will find it easier to personalise it. Finally, I find the colour – a drab kaki green – rather sad and dull for a collection of thoughts intended to celebrate life, although that is a matter of taste.
Who is this for?
If you work with people approaching the end of life – in a hospice, in a palliative care unit, on an oncology ward – you could, if you feel it appropriate, recommend this unusual volume to your patients and/or to their loved ones. In recent years, the use of memory boxes has taken root in end-of-life care. Parents, in particular, are often encouraged to create one for their children, or possibly with their children. While the memory box will hopefully provide some consolation to the child after their parent’s death, the mere act of putting it together can be therapeutic and comforting. It also provides a way for them to broach the subject of their impending death with their child. Whether as part of a memory box or on its own, Before I go, filled with evocative words and images to treasure, celebrate and remember, can serve similar purposes.
before i go