Something is always better than nothing. Don't let your reservations about discussing death take away your chance to immortalise memories. That's Dimity Brassil's message to her clients who want to record audio stories of their loved ones. And she sees the practice taking over Australia.
Hearing the voice of a dead loved one has the power to cut through time and pain.
Its effect is the reason many of Dimity Brassil's clients choose not to listen to recordings of their relatives straight away.
They want to save it for a time of need. Or they find the audio's inference to mortality too confronting.
But Dimity's advice to them remains: don't wait until tomorrow. It's better to have something, than nothing.
In 2017 the Albury mum found herself reflecting on the fact she could no longer hear the voices of her father and sister, who died within three months of each other eight years ago.
"One day I was listening to a podcast with Richard Fidler and, I thought 'Wow, that's pretty sad', and it's not an uncommon thing - it's a scientific fact that you forget somebody's voice first," Dimity said.
"So I decided, I'm going to get my mum, who is 86, and I'm going to record her story and turn it into a podcast.
"The technology was there, I thought, 'I have creative skills and and I've cut videos' ... but it was quite tricky and you needed all this techy gear."
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Amidst research and some trial-and-error, Dimity discovered there wasn't anybody in the podcast space already doing what she had set out to.
"People weren't really doing this for life stories - they were doing it for businesses, and I thought 'I can do this'," she said.
"So I stayed up really late one night, set up a website and registered a business name - and it just grew from there."
What resulted was a start-up called A Lasting Tale, launched in September last year.
Dimity conducts research about a person, interviews them at their home, and creates a "complete audio life story". She also sells do-it-yourself-guides.
"I've done about 15 interviews, sold about 50 guides and I've done two workshops," she said.
"Mum was my test run.
"She's had a really long life - she's run her own small business, had lots of children, done lots of community work - and we talked about all of that.
"She went to Sydney University in the '50s as a girl from the country - which was pretty rare for her generation."
It was at Sydney University that Anne McDonough met Patrick Brassil, and they married in 1995.
As teachers, they lived and worked in Warren, Canberra, and Wagga, and raised nine children across those places, of whom half followed in their parents' footsteps.
Dimity thought about following the trend too.
"I was always really good at English and went to university to do an English literature degree," she said.
"I went to be a school teacher like my family, and decided maybe I was a bit young to be a school teacher straight away, so I went and got a job in Sydney.
"I ended up being editor of an online financial services training product, which you would call a start-up but was then just called a business, and fell into that in my 20s."
Dimity and partner, fellow Waggaite Shaun Field, were living in Sydney and decided that before settling down they'd do some work in London.
"The global financial crisis happened as we landed," Dimity said.
"Shaun got work, but no one would give a full-time job to a recently-married, 29-year-old Australian.
"I had a little freelance work from Australia and it took me about two years to get enough clients, but it was good in the end because when we decided to move back to regional Australia, I was in a really good position."
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Dimity continued her career as a writer and editor (bolstered by a graduate diploma in adult education done in London) from Albury.
Since 2011, she has added to her portfolio of freelance work and up until recently, A Lasting Tale has been a side project.
Taking part in the Jobs for NSW Regional Pitchfest changed that.
"I knew to take it further, I had to make it bigger, and I'd thought about building an app for a while, but entering the competition made me actually go and get a prototype made," Dimity said.
"I was in the heat in Wagga in June and there was a really lovely young man from Wagga who is quite successful in the start-up world, and he introduced himself and we actually knew each other's families.
"He has come on as a partner in making the prototype, and from our market research we're really the only people who are running with a large-scale collection of audio stories in this market.
"None of that would have happened if I hadn't have done Pitchfest."
Dimity was named runner-up of the Pitchfest and received $3500 towards further development of A Lasting Tale.
The app is hoped to streamline elements of her business model - a guide on how to interview, technical tips and a place to physically record audio - and put them in the one place.
"That $3500 is going toward running a pilot somewhere local - we haven't locked it in just yet - at no cost to the aged care home," Dimity said.
"The end-goal is to take this global.
"There's 125 people million in the world over 80 and our goal is for A Lasting Tale to hear their collective voice, one life story at a time."
Dimity sees there being government interest in her resource, with the Royal Commission into Aged Care likely to expose faults in how the elderly are treated in the sector.
"I really see that the time is right for something like this to be put in those places," she said.
"Because being listened to and respected is so important to your autonomy as an individual.
"Unlike my generation where we have lots of records of us, many people particularly in the over-80s have not gotten around to writing their stories and they are no longer able to do that - they are an unheard generation."
Asking a loved one to share their life story is a daunting task. For many people, paying a professional to do it for them will always be the best option.
But the main thing for Dimity is that these stories are heard. People shouldn't let a perceived taboo around dying get in the way of that.
"I've had people ask me about recording somebody younger, and they say 'What if they don't want to do it; I'm too scared to ask', and I think that's really endemic of how we don't talk about death in our society," she said.
"I don't really shy away from it, and now I can't because I do this, but it's just part of life, it's inevitable - it's like that great last thing that we're not talking about.
"What I tell people is that I want everybody to not say 'I wish I hadn't done that'; I want everybody to go 'I'm so glad I did that'.
"I've never met somebody who doesn't want to have their story listened to, not one, not ever."
And all of these people who tell their life story finish with a version of the same lesson.
"They say if they could give advice to their grandchildren, it would be not to worry about the future so much and that what will be, will be," Dimity said.
"They wished they had spent less time worrying about the things in their life that ended up being out of their control.
"They all say that it was about love and relationships in the end."
- Learn more at www.alastingtale.com. Do-it-yourself guides include a donation to Palliative Care Australia
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