Never too early to talk about death

I thank Professor Chong Siow Ann for the reminder about our mortality ("The art of dying well"; Tuesday).

Living in a "death avoidance" society is difficult not just for the ailing and aged, but also for others living with them.

How do you comfort a relative who has just discovered he has cancer and is avoiding family gatherings so as to avoid awkward conversations and discussions?

My father-in-law wakes up gasping in the night, convinced he is about to die, yet he is unable to articulate the worries and anxiety he feels, thus causing him to spiral into depression.

His children sweep away his fear by buying tonics and supplements, and taking him to Western and Chinese doctors weekly, as if talking about death will somehow hasten it.

Speaking of death with our own parents seems to be in conflict with filial piety.

As I approach my own mortality, I make it a point to talk to my sons about my death.

Just like sex education, the earlier one starts talking about it, the easier and less awkward the topic is.

Vicky Chong (Madam)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2016, with the headline 'Never too early to talk about death'. Print Edition | Subscribe