In times of grief, the Port's libraries often become a refuge to those trying to navigate what comes after losing a loved one and librarians become sounding boards when the overwhelming flow of information on end of life matters becomes too much.
Interactions with countless visitors to the Port's libraries seeking information about wills, funerals and other aspects of death and dying, and hearing about the struggles of wading through all the information, gave librarian Nada Voorbij an idea - to create an event offering informative presentations and discussions around the sensitive topic of end of life.
"People come in and tell us their stories, tell us all the things they need to access and do after a death. They don't sit silently at the computer. That's how we know there's a need for something like this," Ms Voorbij, Port Stephens Libraries' circulation coordinator, said.
Rite to the Finish will be held at Raymond Terrace Library from 10am to 1pm on Thursday, March 5.
The free event will feature presentations from a number of individuals and organisations on different aspects of death and dying.
Newcastle death doula Ruth Boydell will be one of the presenters. Ms Boydell, who runs the Newcastle Death Cafe, will speak about home hospice and making the most of a person's end of life at home.
Ms Boydell will also have a conversation with Dr Merran Cooper, founder and chief executive officer of Touchstone Life Care Group. Dr Cooper will lead a presentation featuring a DVD screening of Dying. Start the Conversation.
End of life nurse practitioner Jeanette Lacey, the chair of Newcastle Compassionate Community; end of life companion Cora Masciotta; Allison Ockende, founder of Today, Tomorrow and Always, which specialises in creating precious and unique keepsakes in memory of loved ones; and Catherine Henry Lawyers senior solicitor Monique Smiles, who specialises in wills, estates and elder law, will also present at the Rite to the Finish.
A question and answer session will round out the event.
Ms Voorbij said Rite to the Finish, which is the first event of its kind offered by Port Stephens Libraries, was about presenting useful information to the community about death and dying, and starting a conversation on the sensitive topic in a gentle, respectful, caring manner.
"I think this is what libraries are generally trying to be, a place where you can come and get really great compassionate service in a safe environment," she said.
"For a lot of people, something will happen suddenly and they're faced with 'what now?' What's probate? What does all of that mean? What happens if someone dies without an up-to-date will? Or they might have a will but the circumstances have changed.
"I think there's also a lot of people out there who think 'I've got years' to think about these things and then something happens and they suddenly realise they don't have their affairs in order, or they have an accident or a family members does and they don't know what their wishes are. If they die, what's their request? What would they want? It's really important to have these conversations.
"If nothing else, I think part of our role as a library is to delve into those areas to help people navigate the process and connect them with services out there that can help."
Kris Abbott, Port Stephens Libraries services manager, said the Rite to the Finish program was a "one-stop shop for information".
"When you're in a situation where you're grieving and it's very stressful, you don't know where to start or where to go. I think what Nada has done very well is bring a program together, and I hope people take advantage of it, that covers a wide range of topics that might help them," she said.
"They can come to the library and receive all this information in the one place rather than go out themselves and find all this information themselves."
Bookings to attend Rite to the Finish are essential as places are limited. To register, phone Raymond Terrace Library on 4988 0111. The event includes morning tea.