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In the End: A parting gift for your loved ones - book review

By Ellen Hill

End of life guided journal ``In the End: A parting gift for your loved ones'' is a must in every home to help loved ones fulfil your last wishes.

When Mum died suddenly in January 2018, we knew what to do.

The important paperwork was in the folder on the piano. All those ``when I die’’ conversations that peppered the last 15 years of her life had paid off.

We knew where her will was kept and who the executor was.

She wanted flowers at her funeral. Lots of flowers. So many flowers they would be at the expense of a nice coffin.

Psalm 40 was to be sung at her funeral and engraved on her headstone.

She would be buried, not cremated …

We were fortunate that not only did Mum express her ideal send-off in detail, her affairs were relatively in order and uncomplicated, giving us space to mourn her passing, celebrate her life and support Dad and each other.

Others, however, face a tortuous, complex process compounded by grief, uncertainty and the bitterness of bickering among the bereaved.

In the End: A parting gift for your loved ones, the first project of new boutique Australian publisher Alice Street Press, eliminates the unknown.

A guided journal rather than a ``how-to’’ directive, it focuses on positive life experiences.

Leaving the hard bits - what happens if you become ill, Power of Attorney and Enduring Attorney, your will and gifts – until later in the journal makes them easier to tackle after easing into the subject of death and dying by first reminding loved ones of your character, joys, loves and memories.

The journal is made for the modern era. There’s space to record password and smart phone access, outline a social media strategy after your death and directives about organ donation, funeral insurance and death notices.

As well as funeral and wake wishes, the last section is perhaps the most intriguing, ``Secrets I’ve kept’’.

In the End: A parting gift for your loved ones is so detailed and so practical that it feels like its creators, sisters Lisa Doust and Melanie Vugich, are writing from experience.

They are.

In mid-2018, their youngest sister’s husband Layne, 44, and sons Jakeb, 23, and Kurtis, 16, died suddenly in a tragic accident at their Broken Hill home.

In the midst of their grief, they decided the best way to help their distraught sister Cherie and niece Amber was to take charge of the bureaucracy involved when no wills had been left and there was a financial quagmire to wade through.

During the process they had to deal directly with employers, lawyers, public trustees, life insurance agencies, super funds, banks and creditors.

``We also formed part of the army of friends and family members who came together to conjure up a fitting celebration of the boys’ beautiful lives,’’ they said.

``Our family’s heartbreaking experience got us thinking about the importance of pondering mortality, and of having all the information our loved ones will someday need in one place.’’

Featuring a collection of words and quotes compiled by Doust and gorgeous Outback-themed illustrations by Vugich, the journal comes from that pondering and dealing with the aftermath of unexpected loss.

The sisters hope the journal will help ``pave the way for your family and friends, so they can fulfil your wishes and celebrate your life in the way you envision’’.

In the End: A parting gift for your loved ones should be in every family’s home. It should be well thumbed, smudged and dog-eared.

It should be viewed as an evolving, living document until, in the end, it is complete.

In the End: A parting gift for your loved ones ($39.95) is available at

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