Let's talk about dying

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By Pang Xue Qiang

What would you say today, if you were to die tomorrow?

That may just be one of life’s most perplexing existential questions we have all tried to avoid talking about.

But, one Singaporean is trying to change that.

Corina Tan, 25, wants to encourage a conversation about death and end-of-life issues.

The fresh graduate from NUS Industrial Design invented “The Last Of Me” service that allows us to talk to our loved ones – even after we are dead.

The service – in the form of a mobile application, creates a space for us to leave behind messages that will be shared with our family and friends.

“It helps us to be remembered by others when we have gone. But the ultimate goal of it is when people see the app, it triggers them to starting think about death,” said Corina.

“The app also serves to give users peace of mind, in knowing that they are leaving something behind to comfort and make the grieving experience better for their loved ones,” she added.

Users of the app design an art print made up of their last words – anything from advice to life mottos to even a phrase that they use every day.

The app stores these messages in a database, then sends the printed art to their loved ones posthumously.

The concept is part of Corina’s thesis at NUS. She presented her project last month at her school’s Grad Show at the National Library.

Corina said inspiration for the concept first struck her when she saw a friend remembering her father on Facebook on his one-year death anniversary.

“With improvements in society, we gradually distanced ourselves with death.

“Living in urban cities like Singapore, we do not meet death often enough to know what to do in the face of it, hence it becomes something to avoid,” she said.

However, taboo surrounding talking about death seems to be changing.

A recent Lien Foundation survey found that seven in 10 Singaporeans think there is a need for national conversations about death and dying.

“With rising education level here, Singaporeans have opened up to planning for their death and seeing it as a necessity to do so when they are still healthy,” she said.

“In a palliative stage, death is a natural topic, it is something that you cannot ignore anymore, that you have to address now. So it’s kind of forced in a way.

“But when we do it now while we are still healthy, the topic becomes more approachable and you can take more time to think properly about it and plan for it,” she added.

Corina hopes her project will help people reconcile with the difficult subject of death and spur them on to have physical conversations with the people who matter.