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Danger, this subject may make you feel uncomfortable.

5 Mar


Because I live with my 101- year- old mother, and sometimes fear that she will outlive me, I think more and more about what I want my own children to know. What do they need to know about my wishes for death and dying?

It is so important to talk about things like death and dying, beforehand. People put it off. I believe, for some people, this is such a difficult subject that they avoid it over and over again. These may be the same people who won’t talk to their children about what we used to call “the birds and the bees.” They wait so long that their children are already sexually active before the parents bring it up. The poor kids laugh at their parents. But the parents might actually know a thing or two that would be helpful… or would have been helpful, if they had spoken up in time.

Don’t be afraid to go through the gate.

So, the subject of death and illness or accident is much like that. People wait until it is too late to talk about it. Don’t be one of those people. Stir up your courage and tackle the problem of talking about something that is sad and distressing so that it won’t be AS sad and distressing if it happens suddenly.

For one thing, you need a “living will.” Do you have one? Do you know what that is? If you were suddenly incapacitated, would your family know what to do?  If there are decisions to be made about you, would they know your wishes? Have you made your wishes clear? Do you want to be kept alive, no matter what? Or do you want someone brave to “pull the plug”? Do you want your children to have a medical power of attorney? And if so, which children?

Do you know what your children or family feel about the issue of assisted suicide? Have you talked to each of them about how YOU feel? And if you have no children, is there another family member, or a spouse, or even a lawyer or friend of the family who would serve in this capacity for you? You may be surprised to find that your family has differing views on this very delicate subject. It is so sad to see families fighting about this issue. But they do. And sometimes, not knowing your wishes, it does irreparable damage to the family.

When something happens to you…or your spouse, and your children disagree about whether to use “heroic measures,” the disagreements can become vitriolic and destructive to the family unit.

There are things that can happen even to young and healthy people: accidents, or health events that are entirely unexpected, but nearly fatal. Have you had family discussions about this and decided what to do?

A will is a good thing.  Many people have a will in place but have never thought about a “living will” or a medical power of attorney. But it is imperative that you do think about it.  With no plan in place, your wishes are not only not followed, it could be that no one even knows what they are.

Don’t let this happen to you. Be brave. Write down what you want and what you want your children or your family to know. Make sure they are all in on your wishes. And ask questions. Do they agree with your wishes? Or are they going to try to superimpose their own on you?

You need a checklist; there are sites online that have great ones. I won’t try to duplicate such a list here. But you will need one and putting it off is not helping. When I went to look at the various things I found under “checklist on death and dying,” even though it was only for this blog post, it made me feel sort of sick. Well, sick is not the correct word, but uncomfortable in a way that translated into a sort of heaviness in my tummy and tension throughout my body. It is a difficult subject. I get it. https://www.oktodie.com/preparation-checklists/3-resources/4-planning-your-death

But it will be a lot more difficult if you ignore it. It will not go away. And in the case of sudden illness or death, it is the last thing you want to be thinking about doing. In fact, you will be doing yourself and your loved ones a huge service to get this under control now, while you can think about it dispassionately and calmly. You have time for research and discovery. You can really explore the possibilities with a reasonable sense of taking care of something normal that needs taking care of.

A couple of years ago, my mother and I sat down to write an obituary for her. She said she wanted to do this after reading the obit of one of her friends. Probably, the friend’s sons wrote that and thought it was fine because it listed the woman’s family and clubs she belonged to. But my mother was shocked at how little of her friend’s personality showed in the written words. She wanted people to know more about what she was like. Mother said, “I want it to say I loved dancing, and dogs, and pretty colors, and jewels and traveling, and family.” So, we wrote something that she liked. When the time comes, we won’t have to guess at what Mother would have wanted to see printed in the paper.

That is normal enough because she is definitely old enough now to be thinking of things like that. She is over 100 years old.

But what about me? Or you? The fact is, we all need to think about this, if for no other reason than to help our families out. Just like having a will or insurance, additional planning for eventualities makes good sense. Write an outline for an obituary if you don’t feel like writing a complete one.

Now that I have written   this, I myself have an idea of what I need to do to complete my own checklist. I will try to complete it in the next week or so, or at least by the end of the month. You, too, can begin if you have not started.  I wish you long life and great health. And peace of mind, knowing that, whatever happens, you have arranged for everything.

Spring is coming, buds are beginning to be visible on our forsythia and the daffodils are almost up. It is a great time to complete and put away these wintry tasks and prepare for the new life coming with spring.   

                                                                        **

Copyright©.  2019 Bonnie B. Matheson

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The Journey Continues

20 Jan

We are all on a journey. It is different for everyone. No one can prepare for this journey because what happens on it and where it takes us is completely random.
The journey of which I speak is the one we begin when our parents begin to fail. I don’t mean “fail” in the sense that they seem older, or look older, or act older. I mean when they actually have an event, which ages them quickly. Sometimes it is a fall, or a broken bone. Sometimes it is a heart attack or a stroke. Sometimes it is a disease like Cancer or Diabetes or Parkinson’s Disease. And worst of all it can happen that they become demented in some way, generally from Alzheimers Disease.

pear trees blossom in the snow


When one of these things happen, life suddenly changes dramatically. I remember the first time something like that occurred with my mother. It was Memorial Day 2007, and she had had a pool party. After the guests left she was gathering wet towels to take to the house to be washed and she tripped and fell. She broke her hip. Lucky for her she was not alone when she fell. Her secretary was nearby and called an ambulance.
I heard about this by phone, as I was driving a car with my sister in law, as a passenger, somewhere near Great Meadow in The Plains Virginia. I remember it very well, because it was such a shock. To be told one’s 89 year old Mother has broken her hip is intense. And for many people that is the end of the line. They never really recover. They sort of give up. It crossed my mind that Mother might not come back from this, but immediately after that thought, I rejected it. NO! My Mother will NOT give up. I will go to the hospital and make sure she knows this is just an inconvenience.


SO off I rushed. I actually arrived before they wheeled Mother into the operating room. But I did not try to interfere and no one asked me for my opinion. Later we discovered that Dr Harris had given Mother a “partial” hip replacement, rather a total one. When I asked him about it, he said “I did not know your mother. All I knew was that I had a patient who was 89 years old, with a broken hip. Most people who are that age do not want to be ready to go to dances at the country club. They are finished. But, now that I know your mother, I know better.”
When I saw mother after the operation she was doing OK, but she was worried. I stayed with her from then on, sleeping in her room on one of those horrid expandable chairs that supposedly become a bed. Ha!!! Horrible. But I stayed and coached mother day and night, about how she could beat the odds. I felt my job was to convince her that she would get better. That she would be dancing again, soon and that she was NOT DONE. I talked to her about it in an upbeat way, until I was blue in the face!


Everyone knows I can be a contrarian. In this case, every person I met was saying “such a shame about your mother”, as if she was dying. That just made me more determined to make sure she did not. She liked the idea that she would be better soon. She was willing to do the work. She did not let this setback defeat her.
Mother was by no means finished. She was in a hurry to get better. She got herself up to Newport, in a hospital plane. That was 12 years ago. She got better over the summer and was dancing by Labor Day. She resumed driving and she was just fine. She was back!!!

Happy!


But, I was different. My trust in Mother always being healthy and alive, was shaken just a bit. She was such a great patient. She showed herself to be willing to do the rehab, and not be depressed. In many ways she was an inspiration. Today she is fast approaching 101 years old. Now my part of the journey is often sad. But Mother is still beautiful and healthy. She still wants to be where ever there is action.

Copyright©. 2019 Bonnie B. Matheson

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