To take away your breath, they'll rap about death

SINGAPORE - Too scared to talk about death? How about joking, singing and dancing about it? Seriously.

That is what the Lien Foundation, a funeral parlour and popular getai veterans Wang Lei and Lin Ruping are teaming up to do.

Five getai concerts will be staged in the heartland over five weeks to reach out to older folk, with the aim of getting people who view death as taboo to start talking about it before their time is up.

These three-hour performances will incorporate songs, jokes and even a specially recorded Hokkien rap by the two getai hosts.

Lien Foundation chief executive Lee Poh Wah hopes that throwing a little humour into the mix will get people to open up.

"Death and dying are not a pretty subject...getai has a potent mix of lively dialogue, colourful stories, bright lights and dark humour, which can help make the serious topic less daunting by poking fun at it and dissecting it for discussion."

Also backing the campaign, dubbed Die Die Must Say, is Ang Chin Moh Foundation.

Said its founder, Ang Zi Qian: "We cannot continue brushing aside these discussions, but should instead bring them up in coffee shops and to the heartland."

According to the results of a Death Attitudes survey - commissioned by the Lien Foundation - released last month, older Chinese Singaporeans showed a strong desire to talk about death, with 88 per cent wanting more public education on hospice palliative care. Some 86 per cent also said they would support a national conversation on the topic.

The campaign will aim to get people to open up on topics like writing up a will, end-of-life issues, and open expression of feelings and emotions.

Along with the fear of dying come regret and bitterness - from the lack of closure when one dies, or leaving one's estate in a mess.

Family lawyer Lee Terk Yang said a will is necessary if an individual wants to divide his property very specifically, but many are slow to act. "There is generally no sense of urgency, with some sitting on it indefinitely," he said.

The series of getai shows will start at Chinatown Kreta Ayer Square on Sunday, before travelling to areas like Tampines and Woodlands. They will run till June 10.

A Chinese guide providing pointers on end-of-life issues will also be distributed, and will be made available at nursing homes, hospices and hospitals as well.

Also available is a Mandarin hotline - 1800-3535-800 - manned by volunteers from Care Corner, for callers looking to talk about death. It will continue to operate after the campaign.

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