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.   

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Copyright©.  2019 Bonnie B. Matheson

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