The Last Two Weeks at Longlee – A documentary about dying at home

Thu, 30 Nov 2023 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Join us for an encore screening of The Last Two Weeks at Longlee, a moving and deeply personal documentary about dying at home, made by North Coast filmmaker Susie Forster. Screening on Thursday Nov 30th, 2023, at 7:00pm, Susie Forster will attend the event, which will feature two short films and Q&A with Joshua Cohen, Nurse Practitioner at Byron/Ballina Palliative Care, after the film. Located in The Drill Hall at 4 Jubilee Avenue, Mullumbimby, NSW, this screening will be a unique community event.

Once a common experience, these days not so many of us have cared for a loved one at home, as they die. Those who have are likely to be changed forever – confronted and possibly even comforted by the experience. Candid and highly personal, this 72 minute documentary unflinchingly reveals the last two weeks of the life of Victorian artist Lee Stephenson, whose abundantly clear wish to die at home is granted with the support of her family and a local palliative care team.

For most of Lee Stephenson’s 82 years of life she evaded doctors and hospitals, living a secluded life in the Victorian Goulburn valley. In the midst of COVID restrictions, having long ignored symptoms of ill health and now losing weight rapidly, she senses her days are numbered. Her daughter recounts how her mother phones her one day to say ‘she wouldn’t mind if she woke up dead’.

“I am completely speechless and deeply moved by this film…it is beautifully interwoven on it’s many levels”

Ada J. Peters

Author – My Gut

“Very powerful and deeply personal” Catherine Marciniak – Co Creative Director – Planet Fungi

“It’s a love story, between a mother and a daughter…profoundly beautiful and moving” Robyn Hancox – Ceramicist and teacher

Shot by Lee’s daughter, Susie Forster, this film surpasses any of the filmmakers previous work for hitting close to home. Begun as a way to record the quirky conversations she found herself having with her dying mother, she soon realised that she was capturing a window into a world that is rarely viewed. In an act that some would consider radical, and certainly highly personal, she shares with the audience some of her family’s’ most intimate moments at the end of Lee’s life. Forster says,

“Dying is not a bad thing. Mum wanted to die. And what was very clear is that she wanted to die at home, and it was enormously satisfying to be able to give her that.”

Death is a subject we often avoid in Western society, leading many of us to approach our own mortality, and that of those we love, with a fair amount of trepidation, if indeed we consider it at all. This head-in-the-sand approach means that choices about where and how we die are often made for us, without us being fully aware of our options. In Australia, one of those options is state funded palliative care at home, which offers us the chance to care for a loved one as they die safely and peacefully, with the support of trained nurses and carers, in their own home.

In the film we meet the Lower Hume Palliative Care team, who assist with everyday care and pain medications for Lee. Some take part in sensitive discussions with her about death. Their help, and in particular, the hospital bed, is invaluable to the family. Christine, one of the nurses describes the elements of what she calls “a good death”, something to which they all aspire to, and says,

“I think the best thing that we can aim for is just what we call a ‘good death’, which really involves having family and close friends around”

Shot with an intimacy rarely seen on film, this participatory documentary reveals layers of beauty amongst the gritty reality of dying. We sense it through humorous day-to-day moments; the caring of the support crew; in the stunning landscape; in Lee’s striking paintings of the countryside and her garden and the poignant original folk song played by her granddaughter in her dining room, only days before Lee’s death.

Don’t miss sharing this sometimes confronting and often touching film about the everyday trials and tribulations of this unrehearsable process- living while dying at home.