Colin Wong is dying to talk
Colin Wong is the founder of Gathered Here, a website that enables families to compare prices charged by funeral homes. He was motivated to build the website after feeling taken advantage of by funeral directors when arranging his great aunt’s funeral.
Below, Colin answers questions from the Dying to Talk Discussion Starter. For support in discussing your end-of-life wishes with your loved ones, download it from www.dyingtotalk.org.au
If you had a condition that you could not recover from, what would be important to you, towards the end of your life?
Being a new father to the most beautiful, happy and cheeky eight-month-old boy, this question really has a new meaning for me. Though he’s still young, he’s already full of personality, and I would want to ensure that he doesn’t lose any part of that. I would want him to approach life with hope, joy, curiosity and the confidence to chase after his dreams.
I would also want him to have an idea of who I was. I would treasure being able to write him letters for certain milestones in his life or even just leaving short, candid videos of me.
Are there any pets that you would like to see or be with you if this is possible?
We have two mischievous cats who are like day and night. There is Harry, who can’t ever have enough attention and, in truth, is more like a puppy than a cat, and Juju, who is a gentle yet fearless explorer who counts Freddie (my in-laws’ dog) as one of her best friends.
It’s not possible to do anything in our house without them being on top of you, so if they weren’t around at the end it just wouldn’t feel right.
Would you prefer a quiet environment or do you prefer activity and chatter around you?
Both. I’m sure I would need a quiet environment to think and come to peace with my situation. But I’m also someone who can get wrapped up too deeply in my own thoughts, so I’d need close friends and family nearby. When they were in the room, I’d have it no other way than them making a general ruckus, laughing, joking, and reminiscing the good times.
Would you like music to be playing and if so, what style or what music?
I have a fairly diverse taste when it comes to music. In the fluctuation of conflicting thoughts and feelings, I’m sure I’d find the right moments to cycle through my entire library – from Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Ros to, embarrassingly, Justin Bieber.
If possible would it be important to you to have time outside?
While I’m not the biggest outdoor enthusiast, I’ve always felt looking out to sea or up to the night skies can help put things into perspective. If I had the time to seek out a few more of those moments that would be wonderful.
Are there any cultural or religious practices you would like to observe?
I’m not particularly religious or affiliated with cultural practices. For me, it would be most important to make sure that I was and those around me were well prepared for both my passing and the future.
What is on your bucket list of things you would like to do or achieve before you die?
Making a positive difference in the world is something I’ve always driven towards, and Gathered Here is a step in that direction. The terrible experience I had with funeral directors after my great aunt’s death is something I don’t want other families to have to go through.
Since launching the website, we’ve received hundreds of messages, and one sticks in my mind. It was from a lady whose husband had passed. She couldn’t afford an expensive funeral and she ended up being convinced into a funeral that was three times more than she could afford. She said she knew she should have done more price research but she was just “too grief stricken to do the ring around”.
Since January, I’ve mystery shopped over 600 funeral homes around Australia to get their price lists, which are now all available for comparison on www.gatheredhere.com.au. I still have around 300 funeral homes to go, but if I can complete a resource that helps protect Australian families in grief, that will be a really meaningful item to tick off my bucket list.
How did you feel during the process of completing this form? Was there anything about the process that interested or surprised you?
Honestly, starting out, it was confronting. I struggled to write the first word. That’s not too surprising given that, like most people, I’ve subconsciously done my best to not think about death and dying.
What was surprising was that once I started, it quickly became easier, and I found the things I wrote down weren’t just things that applied to my future self at the end of life, but things that applied to how I want to live today.
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