Bianca is a freelance science journalist, broadcaster and author, who is yet to meet a piece of research she doesn’t find fascinating. In a decade of freelance reporting, she has written for publications including Scientific American, Nature, The Australian, Ecos, Australian Doctor, Medicine Today and the ABC’s health, science and environment websites.
She is also author of The End: The Human Experience Of Death and co-author of The Sixth Wave: How To Succeed In A Resource-Limited World.
What is your work and why do you do it?
I’m a writer - a freelance science journalist and an author - because writing is the spark that ignites my brain, fires my imagination and gives me access to worlds, both real and imagined, that I would never otherwise have the privilege to explore.
What is your most memorable experience of this work?
There are too many to count - it might be learning about the oldest star or how our immune system can be unleashed against cancer, it might be interviewing a Nobel Prize winner or a scientist whose life’s work has suddenly become a global game-changer, or it might simply be the joy of finding the perfect word or the perfect phrase to describe the image in my head.
Do you have any tips on how someone could develop their personal relationship with their mortality/death/dying?
I believe we need to start thinking about our experience of death the way women think about their experience of giving birth. Instead of waiting until the very last minute and then wondering why things didn’t go well, we can start thinking about what experience of death we might like to have, and start putting things in motion to help that happen.
I think it also helps to explore your feelings around death and particularly your fears, because that is the start of the process that can enable you to confront those fears and do things to reduce the chance of those fears becoming a reality.
What are you Dying to Know?
What is it like on that final journey? Is it transcendent? Is it nothing? Will I be reunited with my loved ones?
If you could re-write an aspect of the Australian way of death what would it be?
I’d love to see death move out of hospitals and into more caring, personal, gentle environments such as hospices or homes. I’d also love to see more choice in burials, to allow people to be truly returned to the earth in a natural environment rather than only have the choice of cremation or burial in a box six feet deep.
What do you want to be buried/cremated etc in?
My zebra print dressing gown and red ugg boots. I want my corpse to be comfortable.
Assuming you have one, what will your deathbed scene be like?
As I’ll be dying, I’m not sure I’ll care, but I want my deathbed scene to be the one that my loved ones want. Maybe they’ll all want to be sitting around drinking wine and eating luscious cake and celebrating my life, or maybe they’ll want me to slip away peacefully in my sleep. I want it to be about them, not me.
What songs will be played at your funeral?
Wow, how to choose just one! I’d want a rolling mix tape of the following: ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ by Richard Strauss, ‘Zadok The Priest’ by George Friedrich Handel, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, ‘The Cantique of Jean Racine’ by Gabriel Faure, Elgar’s famous cello Concerto, and ‘One Day Like This’ by Elbow.
What is your best advice when people remark “I don’t know what to say”
Tell them what they mean to you. Tell them you love them. Tell them why you love them. Or just sit and be with them.
Is writing about death and dying morbid? and are you ‘special’/‘weird’/‘scary’ to be doing this work?
No, I think I’m just a very curious person whose curiosity went that one step (or many steps) further into researching and writing a book. I don’t think death is morbid, it’s just a fact of life.
What’s your view on death being taboo?
I think that’s changing as the Baby Boomer generation starts contemplating its mortality and realising that it has no intention of going quietly. They want to talk about death and they don’t care if the younger generation doesn’t want to listen. Ultimately, I think they’ll blaze a trail into the darkness and open up the conversation by sheer force of will, and for that we should all be grateful.
Dying To Know Day is August 8th.
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