The Dreamers Book

What do people think about life, when they are living with the prospect of dying soon? What gives them joy? Have they had dreams or visions about death or the hereafter? How do they feel about dying?

Pippa asked forty people receiving palliative care questions about life, dreams and dying. Photographing them while they answered these intimate and complex questions, this series reveals the wisdom and belief systems of those living with life- limiting illness. The photographs, text and sound provide poignant and profound insights into the lives of those receiving palliative care, conveying what really matters to them at the end of their lives.


Commissioned and published by Palliative Care Victoria, this book would not have been possible without their financial and in-kind support. Thank you also to all the people and palliative care services who kindly gave their time and energy to find people with the courage to tell their stories, and to give us all some insight into their lives.

Published by Palliative Care Victoria, 2014
Paperback, 88pp, RRP$30
Available from Palliative Care Victoria



Review by Emeritus Professor Ian Maddocks AM

Many publications in recent years have sought to assist discussions about death, but this surely ranks high among the best. Pippa Wischer, a skilled photographer, was so moved by close participation in her mother’s time of dying that she took upon herself a project of interviewing and photographing 40 persons journeying through terminal illness

Each has a full-page, close-up photograph, linked to brief biographies and paragraphs of reflection under the consistent headings of Life, Death and Dreams. Pippa’s way with words is as compelling as are her images, but most of the words she has chosen are from her amazing ‘sitters’.

None of the forty is afraid of death; they share regrets, but they face their reality with honesty and courage. Each one is different; each reveals self openly alongside a superb portrait, and there are little images of family life in the margin. These dying persons are you and me, totally recognizable, and able to encourage in each one of us a reflection on our own death.

Shall we, like these lovely persons, be able to remain ourselves, be confiding, philosophical and courageous in the face of death?

Place this volume in the doctor’s waiting room, in the hospital outpatients. Chain it to the wall like the Medieval Bibles, because it is quite beautiful and will be tempting to steal. And like the Bible its many contributors speak of serious matters like death and love:

I love this book for its demonstrations of patience, courage and love. For those of us who have still to face the final passage, it is both transforming and reassuring.

Ian Maddocks



National Library of Australia listing

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Edward

Forty people receiving palliative care reveal their thoughts about life, dreams and dying. Is there a purpose to life? What gives them joy? Have they had dreams or visions about death or the hereafter? How do they feel about dying?

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Bernard Ring and Jill Hennessy MP

“We went to see The Dreamers at the City Library. We both loved it – seeing the different perspectives and philosophies people had – religious, humanist, acceptance, sadness, guilt, hope of being reunited with loved ones…it really stayed with me long after we left.”

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Cherie

I want to die in country. That’s my wish. I dream of being with my mum and my husband. I can feel my husband’s presence around the house all the time and I dream that I’ll be at peace.

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Edward

I had a wake here by myself one day, that’s how bad I got. You don’t like to tell people what you are; you got this or that cancer and think you’re going to die. I take in more than I did before, trying to get a bit more out of life.

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John

I now believe that the lights just go out and that’s it. It was very peaceful; just flick the switch. I don’t think I’m going to be catching up with people.

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Kveta

Dreams, oh, I have whole movies! I never before was seeing dead people. That’s why I think, maybe if I die, if there is another life, I will meet them.

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Lucette

I’m French; I love my cheese. When I was in hospital I told them ‘No way I’m going to die before I have a lasagna!’ For me that’s important, being able to live your death.

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Mark

I was just floating around like Peter Pan. You couldn’t compare it to anything that’s on this side. The physical body is the one that feels the pain; the spiritual body’s not solid so you can’t hurt it.

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Tania

I’m trying to find a bit of normality in my life. Unfortunately, it’s jumped the fence, and now I have to mourn the joy of being normal, of not being cancer.

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Brian

I found myself saying, ‘I wonder if I’ll actually be alive next Wednesday?’ You suddenly realize that life doesn’t have to be that serious. But I give myself what I call little moments of terror…

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“I love this book for its demonstrations of patience, courage and love. For those of us who have still to face the final passage, it is both transforming and reassuring.”
Emeritus Professor Ian Maddocks AM

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