Carly-Jay Metcalfe is a writer, spiritual carer and death midwife. Originally a Brisbane based writer, she can be found flitting between Barcaldine and Bangalow while she packs as much into her life as possible. Carly-Jay is a full-time healthcare provider (to herself) after receiving a double lung transplant in 1998 with just days to live. She was 21. Cancer tried to kill her in 2007, but failed (again), which leads her to believe that she’s impossible to kill. Carly-Jay is ridiculously happy to be alive, though that doesn’t make her immune to sadness.
Her fiction, memoir and poetry have been published in various anthologies, and her short story ‘The Twelve Hands of Mother Lode’, published in Wet Ink’s ‘Emerge’ anthology was lauded as ‘warm and evocative’ by the Sydney Morning Herald. It was also a finalist in the State Library of Queensland Young Writers Award many moons ago. A work of non-fiction was published in the Vignette Press ‘Death Mook’ in 2009, and more recently, she was invited to collaborate on a poem for the 200th issue of Overland, and has been published in the Stylus Poetry Review, Four and Twenty, Australian Poetry’s online publication sotto, several issues of Regime: magazine of new writing, and most recently Cordite Poetry Review and Tincture Journal.
Carly-Jay has presented papers at writing conferences, performed her work at the Woodford Folk Festival and was the first writer to perform at the 2high festival. She has been short-listed and runner-up for various literary awards, appeared at the Emerging Writers Festival in Melbourne, and was poet-in-residence at Black Star Coffee for the first six months of 2012 where she wrote more than 11,000 words of poetry *wipes brow*
Carly-Jay is currently working on a screenplay, a novel set in 1973 outback Queensland and her memoir ‘chasing away salt water’ – all projects she will continue working on until they’re filed under ‘felina’.*
Having been interested in palliative care since her transplant, Carly-Jay’s life direction changed in 2010 when she discovered her true passion and purpose in caring for the dying through Karuna – a hospice service in Brisbane run by Tibetan Buddhist nuns. Carly-Jay has engaged in other death care education including a six month Death Midwifery course with world-renowned palliative care physician and death educator, Dr. Michael Barbato, as well as ‘Deathwalker’ training with Zenith Virago from Byron Bay’s Natural Death Care Centre.
In October of 2014, Carly-Jay was asked to speak at TEDx Brisbane where she spoke about her life, her death(s), her passion for caring for the dying and how we need to weave conversations about death into the everyday. Last year, Carly-Jay halted her Masters studies to complete her first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, and now works at Brisbane’s biggest trauma hospital as their first and sole secular pastoral carer.
In 2017, Carly-Jay will complete her palliative care volunteer training with Karuna, and is working with friend and colleague Jacky Arbuckle to bring a secular (non-religious) community-based hospice service into being called ‘Nurture – Compassionate End-of-Life Care’. They want to return dying and death to both the community and the family home – a return to the old ways. ‘Nurture’ is about creating meaningful and sustainable choices for people who are facing the end of their lives, and returning the sacred to dying and death.
Through her work, writing and speaking, Carly-Jay is hoping to get as many people thinking and talking about death and dying as possible, and she hopes that by writing in the third person that she doesn’t come across as a twat of the highest order.
* Google it.