Mercury (Hobart)

Death becomes her

Funeral director Bec Lyons challenges the way we deal with our dear deaprted Mr GoodGuy


IUSED to say there was nothing like a deadline to concentrat­e the mind. But that was before I met Bec Lyons. To focus people on their mortality, the funeral director invites them to lie in a coffin.

She will be at the You’n’ Taboo stall at the Hobart Wellness Expo this month if you’d like a turn.

“We take a coffin and say, ‘it’s not for sale, it’s for you to get in and contemplat­e your mortality’,” Bec says, when we meet for a cuppa at Mr GoodGuy in the Hotel Ibis on Macquarie St, a stone’s throw from her workplace as a paralegal.

Some people, seeing the coffin, give her stall a wide berth. Others see it as selfie gag. Others take it so seriously they ask her to close the lid. For many, she says, the experience is a reality check.

“A lot of people will get out and go, ‘you know, I actually really have to do something about my will’.”

As well as being a funeral director, Bec is a qualified death doula, filling gaps in end-of-life care for patients and their loved ones.

Typically, she is hired to provide services from pre- and post-death planning to vigilholdi­ng and keeping a body at the family home before burial or cremation.

One of her missions is to empower more people to feel OK about caring for their loved ones in the days following their death.

She says removing bodies from families right after death is causing extra grief.

“There’s a real cathartic thing that happens when people give hands-on care to their dead.

“Even if it’s not being at home with them for days, just to go to where that person is and to dress them, wash their hair or to spend time just sitting a vigil.”

Last year, on a Churchill Fellowship, Bec visited the UK, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Italy, the US and Mexico to research people’s relationsh­ips to death and ceremony through alternate approaches and technologi­es.

“My biggest takeaways from the study tour were the different ways we can do body disposal, and how close we are to getting some of those here in Tasmania,” she says.

One is alkaline hydrolysis, a reduction of the body through water, lye and heat, that is also known as water cremation.

“The body goes in [to a pressure vessel] and within about three hours what comes out is pure white bone,” she says.

She says a recent change — for which she lobbied — to the

A RIOT of colour and pattern arrests you in this funky ground-floor hub of southeast Asian cuisine. But the favourite $20 breakfast buffet items are distinctly occidental: potato gems, bacon and eggs, and Bao buns in four flavours — tofu & oyster, mushroom, fried chicken and pork — are a favourite on the lunchtime menu. Sweet treat: Pandan fried custard with ginger syrup and ice cream $13

Open: Daily, from 6.30am

Address: Hotel Ibis, 173 Macquarie St

Burial and Cremation Act 2019 has helped clear the path in the state for different forms of body disposal, including this one.

She witnessed the process in the US, where it is legal in about 20 states.

“That was really amazing, the resonation process,” she says.

Bec is also a fan of natural burials, where bodies are interred in a shroud to a depth of just a metre, coffin-free.

We need dedicated natural burial grounds, she says, with Burnie City Council’s approval of the environmen­tallyfrien­dly burials a step in the right direciton.

Conservati­on burials, combining natural burials with bequests, are also on her wishlist. That’s where burial fees fund the purchase of land around the burial site to protect.

“We are the nature state. We really have an opportunit­y here to kick off something like that.”

And she wants to see many more family-led funerals.

“This is where the family retains control of everything that happens after death.

“When someone dies, they can take their person back to the family home, look after that person themselves, and take the time they need to put together the ceremony themselves. They can take back all that stuff that usually gets handed over, or they can outsource some of it.”

In 10 years’ time, she hopes Tasmanians are much more informed — and that more than the current 48 per cent of Australian­s are writing wills.

“I would love people to have a much higher rate of death literacy and to be making truly informed choices,” Bec says.

“We need to be doing planning much much better than we are.”

The 7th annual Wellness Expo will be held at Princes Wharf 1 from 10am-3pm on February 29. Entry is free.

 ?? Picture: LUKE BOWDEN ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia