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Ara Cresswell is dying to talk

Ara Cresswell is CEO of Carers Australia and this week is National Carers Week. Carers provide more than $1 billion of unpaid care each week, so show your support by clicking here to say thank you.

Below, Ara 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

If you had a condition that you could not recover from, what would be important to you, towards the end of your life?

Noise, every day.  I want noise – laughter, dishes clanking, dogs barking, children fighting.  It’s how I live my life now so I’d like nothing to change. I’d like to go out amid chaos and frenzy and plenty of activity.

I also want to be organised, not leaving hanging threads for those left behind, and I’d like to plan my funeral so that it’s a bit of a party.

I’d want to live my life as fully as possible and not sit around waiting for death.

Are there any pets that you would like to see or be with you, if this is possible?

All of them, past and present – my childhood dog, Bruiser, who used to be able to say “good morning”; my pig, Orrie, who loved oranges; my dog, Dennis who couldn’t be caught once he had a ball (and as he grew old we pretended not to catch him to keep up appearances); my cat, Fatty Boombah, who came to me third hand; and definitely my current Borzoi, Lily, who only has three legs and doesn’t bite too many people too often and my Tibetan terrier, Toby, who sleeps at my feet.

Would you prefer a quiet environment or do you prefer activity and chatter around you?

I’m always professing to want a quiet environment, with soothing music playing, but the truth is that I love the din of family and friends around the table, the Mahjong tiles clattering, the dishes falling over as they are piled high upon the sink, the children performing a concert.

I also love to walk along the beach early in the morning after a night alone in my caravan, not a word spoken. There’s something magic about alone time, but not too often, so give me both.

Would you like music to be playing and if so, what style or what music?

Music sometimes, but not all of the time. All kinds – my sister on the violin, the grandchildren experimenting with an array of instruments, a bit of Handel, a bit of Melissa Etheridge, a little bit of Nick Cave. Maybe not all at once!

If possible would it be important to you to have time outside?

Absolutely. I need the outdoors. I need to breathe fresh air and feel the sun and the wind on my face. I’d be happy to be on the back deck on a mattress, rain or shine.

Would you prefer to be surrounded by lots of family and friends, or would you prefer one or two closest people to be with you?

Both. I want to see everybody and hear their voices, but I might need a bit of quiet time with my partner and my children. I’d want laughter and play.

Are there any cultural or religious practices you would like to observe?

Not especially but I would like the significant cultural events in our household – NAIDOC, birthdays, anniversaries, National Carers Week – to still be celebrated around me.

Is there anyone particular you would like to see or talk to?

Whenever I’m a tad fragile I want my Mum, but she is no longer here, so I guess I’m likely to want my sisters and my brother at some point. I’ll want to see my partner, my children and my grandchildren, but I won’t want fuss and bother.

Is there anything else you can think of that you would like?

An ordinary life despite the extraordinary circumstances.  I want things to be normal.  I don’t want tiptoeing and manners. I want silliness and everydayness. Oh, but I would want to know that the fridge has been cleaned out and the cupboards wiped down!

What is on your bucket list of things you would like to do or achieve before you die?

There’s nothing on my bucket list except completely unrealistic things like running a marathon. The most important thing is that people around me know how well loved they are. I also want to leave this world knowing I gave the best of me to everything that I took on.

How did you feel during the process of completing this form? Was there anything about the process that interested or surprised you?

I’ve faced my impermanence and it doesn’t scare me. This process simply reiterated that I love the life that I live and I have been really lucky to have wonderful people close with me through the good times and the tough ones.


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