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29 June 2017

Time to Live by Ann Clifford

Hazel Southam spoke to Ann Clifford about her new book, Time to Live, and found out why Ann thinks we should all be talking more about death...

You've written a book about death which isn't a popular subject. Why?
I worked with elderly people through my local church for six years. I realised that they were so reluctant to talk about death, so I wanted to produce a resource that would enable people to talk about it openly.

Why don't people talk about it?
A I think it's simply fear. There's a superstition that if you talk about it, it might happen. I'm not ill, as far as I know, but writing this book made my subconscious say, "Am I dying? Is this the last thing I'll write before I die?" So I get that superstition. But death is the only thing in our lives that won't go away.

What are people afraid of?
I think for non-believers, it's because there is nothing that's going to happen after death. All you have is now, so you want to hold onto that as tenaciously as possible. Death is a very fearful thing.
For us as Christians, I wonder if we actually believe that Jesus rose from the dead in order that we may be resurrected and that we will be part of a new heaven and a new earth? If we do, then we are able to live life in a different way.

How's writing this book changed your own view of death?
I feel like I've re-framed it into something so much more positive, rather than something that's like a monster that the more you run away from it, the more it grows. I often worried about it, but now I feel like it's a more exciting prospect. 

I think we should be more positive about death. I have learned, writing this book, how amazing God is. You couldn't make this stuff up. It's extraordinary. 

I believe that there is a hope and a way to approach it that can leave a legacy of grace and wellbeing with those you leave behind.

You're only 64, but have you put into practice things that you're suggesting in the book, such as writing a will and considering power of attorney?

Having written about death has made me pray more. I've talked to my family about my death and I'm trying to implement things that I have written about. I've been to visit the place where I would like to be buried. That was interesting. I would rather that it was like that because it will happen, it will. 

And it inspires me to continue to do the things that I really care about in life. So many of us have made bad decisions in life, but if we approach it from the point of view that we could be our best selves, it changes things.

What do you hope other people will gain from this book?
I hope that people will learn that death isn't the worst thing that can happen to you. Let's be brave and look at this. I would encourage people to look at the fact that they are going to die and I want people to recognise that dying is not only about ourselves. It's about how I leave this life, so that I don't leave a legacy of pain for others. I would like to leave them with a sense of my applause over their lives.

Do you have to be old to read this book?
No you don't! None of us know when we are going to die. The recent terrorist attacks in Britain and the Greenfell Tower fire make us all mindful of our own mortality, and that of those that we love. 

If the fear of death has gone, then it allows us to live life possibly in a different way. It's about being bold enough to be the person who you always wanted to be. 

We all have broken relationships. If we want to do death well, that can give us the courage to go back to the things that are broken and as far as we can, to offer a hand, to ask for forgiveness and to forgive. So, I really hope that, having read this book, people will be inspired to mend relationships. After all, the Bible talks a lot about loving each other and ourselves, but it's difficult, isn't it? 

Time to Live by Ann Clifford is published by Instant Apostle in September and costs £8.99.    

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