If dehydration, typhoid, a mine collapse and alcoholism didn’t get you, an assassin might.
In the back corner of a large cemetery in the goldrush town of Coolgardie, about six hours from Perth, sits the grave of a man who was shot in the back as he prayed.
The headstone reads: “Tagh Mahomed who died by the hand of an assassin at Coolgardie Jan 10 1896 aged 37 years. His end was peace.”
Tagh Mahomet was an Afghani cameleer and businessman. Camels and their handlers played a vital role in the outback at the time, carrying supplies to sheep and cattle stations and goldfields. Tagh and his brother Faiz were local merchants and were prominent in civic affairs. They were the state’s largest camel owners.
Tagh was shot by a fellow Muslim in a mosque on Mount Eva, on the eastern outskirts of Coolgardie. There are differing accounts of why Goulam Mahomet killed Tagh. Some believe the death was caused by ongoing feuding factions back home in Afghanistan. Goulam Mahomet claimed that Tagh has threatened him. Goulam Mahomet was hanged for the murder of Tagh at Fremantle Prison.
Coolgardie Cemetery is a large goldfields cemetery. While the current population is under 1,000, during the goldrush, Coolgardie was WA’s third largest town, with a bustling street filled with grand hotels and even a stock exchange with 25 stock brokers!
I’m stoked to see a popular Queensland toy shop bringing the difficult subject of death to life ahead of Dying To Know Day, an annual day of action aimed at encouraging discussion of death, dying and bereavement.
Catering for people whose lives and interests aren’t all fun and games, former school teacher and owner of Let The Children Play in Mackay, Ally Blines, said dealing with grief and death is something that’s often not talked about, with devastating consequences.
“It’s dealt with behind closed doors and it needn’t be the case. We need to be open and supportive of one another during difficult times,” said Ally.
Not far from shelves stocked with colourful toys, educational games and children’s books sits a range of reference books on subjects such as dealing with grief, parenting, autism, Asperger’s and even funeral planning.
Ally thinks Dying to Know Day on August 8 is the perfect opportunity to broach the subject with family.
Launched in 2013, the D2KDay initiative by the Groundswell Project encourages people to improve their death literacy and to get informed about end of life and death care options such as dying at home, and to be better equipped to support family and friends experiencing death, dying and bereavement.
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care reports that Australia has been characterised as “a death denying society where many people are reluctant to consider their own mortality and talk with their families about what their wishes are for the end of life”.
Bereavement is another potentially difficult subject catered for at the Ally’s toy shop In Mackay.
The work of Mackay widow Deb Rae is popular. She has penned ‘Getting there – grief to peace for young widows’ when her young husband passed away. It’s a book that Ally believes resonates with so many aspects of life.
“We have elderly men who lost a wife 20 years ago turning to her words.
“And one of my own children was quite ill during their key teenage years and it was only when I read Deb’s book that I realised I had been grieving for the loss of those years and my expectations for that time, even though my child was fine and had moved on.”
“Deb’s book is mainly bought by people who are buying it either directly for a friend who has lost a partner or for themselves to help them understand that friend’s experience.”
Ally said she hopes people who walk through the doors of Let the Children Play leave not only with their children’s needs catered for, but also their own.
“It’s important we all address these kind of subjects, even though it may be a little confronting,” she said.
Dying to Know Day is a good excuse to bring up the subjects of death, dying or bereavement up with people in your life. There are lots of activities planned in many parts of the country. Check out www.dyingtoknow.org for events.
I’m speaking in Bendigo as part of a jam-packed morning of activities, including a crematorium tour. Details here. Would love to see you there.
ABOUT THE BLOGGER: Lisa Herbert is a cemetery wanderer, journalist and author of The Bottom Drawer Book: an after death action plan, an informative and amusing workbook and funeral planning guide for those who want to prepare for the inevitable. It is available in Australia for $24.95, including postage (Additional postage of AU$9 is payable for overseas orders). She enjoys telling the stories of the dead because they reveal so much of our history and way of life.
Welcome to a blog about the inevitable. While it’s not for everyone, there are a lot of people who like the idea of having a say in their own farewell. Some people tell me it’s because they don’t want their family burdened with the task and others tell me it’s to ensure everyone has a good time at the funeral!
My interest in western society’s perception of death and dying was sparked as a teen after reading several books written by renowned psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. The works, inspired by Dr Kübler-Ross’ work with terminally ill patients, were groundbreaking at the time. Never before had the emotional needs of the dying been given attention by the medical profession.
Nearly 50 years on and many people are still reluctant to talk about the inevitable. However, while researching The Bottom Drawer Book: the after death action plan I found that once the discussion began, people opened up and gave their mortality some measured thought. All they needed was someone to initiate the discussion. And that’s where The Bottom Drawer Book comes in. Its aim is to start the conversation.