By Larry Butler

The more I talk and write about life and death, the more alive I feel. Do you? Four years ago, I set-up a group called die-a-log ; from this small start of eight people meeting in a friend’s front room in Glasgow, there are now over 10 groups around the UK:

Diealog is for everyone – no matter where we are on our life journey – helping ourselves and others live well right to the very end. This is a place for sharing our stories, conversations, collaborating and supporting each other.
I am a tai-chi and writing tutor and my most committed students attend my classes at the Maggie Cancer Care Centre, many of whom have a terminal diagnosis. A great forum for die-alog-ing.

"The only thing that really matters in life are your relations to other people." The research study – Aging Well – has shown that it was the capacity for intimate relationships that predicted flourishing in all aspects of the men's lives.

“The primate brain is constructed to retain and not relinquish, love… Just as rivers expose buried geologic strata, so may the erosion of living uncover life-saving memories of love, formerly obscured by pain, resentment, or immaturity”.
George E Vaillant, M.D. Aging Well

The longer I live, the more people I know die. In the past few years I’ve written several eulogies, poems in memory of…., and most recently conducted a whole memorial service at the House of an Art Lover. In the reception after the formal service, I was asked – jokingly – by several people: “will you conduct my memorial?” Two days before Morag died, I visited her in the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice, bringing her a card with this short poem:

Let me tell you
how words sometimes
don't matter
as when gestures
connect need with need
then giving is receiving
receiving giving
it's all about change –
how blank faces light up
when you get
what you want
without asking


And I gave her a Bundle of Bog Cotton – a tribute to her work editing an anthology with that title:

My friend and colleague in Lapidus Scotland – Helen Lamb – died in March this year. Helen was my best eye for proofreading and editing our grant applications and the Words Work Well Scotland toolkit for facilitators of writing, reading and storytelling groups for wellbeing: Here’s what I wrote for Helen and her photo at the launch of Magi Gibson’s latest collection:

Warrior-Woman-Writer-Worker i.m. Helen Lamb

Helen, there’s heavy rain, gale force winds here by Loch Craignish – everyone you know will be storming too, now your long nights are over re-writing your novel or trouble-shooting all those family matters; and there’ll be no more muttering in the morning about the things you haven’t done: manuscripts and essays still to read and mark, not another draft grant application to proof-read and improve my clumsy syntax.

No more tutorials, no more meetings, no more workshops, no more readings; someone else will have to do it all – you’ve done your bit and did your best – you can stop now, take a break and rest assured the long nights are over, your storm has passed, but we will continue. We must continue to knock on the doors of Creative Scotland, The Scottish Book Trust, the National Lottery, NHS Education – all those people.
Look at you in that photo only three weeks ago – where words worked well for all, a big happy smile holding up your dear friend Magi’s latest book of poems: Washing Hugh MacDiarmid’s Socks.

There’s nothing more you need to do, no more muttering in the morning –your work is done, it’s time to play: Warrior-Woman-Writer-Worker: your horse is spent, your time is up Helen, storm is over. None of us will be the same without you.




Through my small press PlaySpace Publications: , I will be editing and publishing a book called Autumn Voices in March 2018 – and selections from this blog will be included. Robin Lloyd Jones is writing the book, based on interviews of 20 Scottish Writers over 70, including Jim Kelman, Diana Hendry, Alistair Gray, Sheila Templeton....
To find out more:

With this title - Autumn Voices – If I’m still alive, I will lead an event for the Scottish Writer’s Centre on Tuesday 26th September 2017 exploring ways of being creative as we age - both creative writing and journaling for wellbeing.  This will include short readings and an interactive workshop addressing questions such as "what will help your writing to flower as you get older?"
The older I get, the more I want to write. As I near the end of my life, I want to look back and see my ageing as a Great Adventure:

Your spouce is going to be dead soon
You are going to be dead soon
Be kind to each other