Planning for dying while living in the moment

“Recent survey reveals Australians simply aren’t having conversations about death and dying and are therefore flying blind when it comes to understanding the end of life wishes of their loved ones….Discussions about the type of care we want, and where we want to be cared for are important for every single one of us. The fact is palliative care is everyone’s business.” – Dr Yvonne Luxford

Australians are not alone in not talking about dying.  In Canada the CHPCA “Speak Up” website and campaign provides resources to assist individuals, families, and professionals to start conversations on the topic.

In British Columbia the Ministry of Health published a resource, “My Voice: Expressing My Wishes for Future Health Care Treatment”.  This is a practical tool  that I have found useful to help guide conversation.

From a personal perspective, when my mom Yetta was diagnosed with a terminal cancer she talked about dying like she talked about everything else – openly, with curiosity, and in very practical terms.  Dialogue started in the early mornings over her first cup of coffee and popped up throughout the days.

Initially, other than deciding on cremation and a few details about a service, she focused mostly on the care that she wanted before death. When my siblings found a beautiful piece of driftwood and started to build a coffin for her, she became more interested in that topic as well.

Yetta talking over early morning coffee "What is important to me when I die...."

Yetta talking over early morning coffee "What is important to me when I die...." (Photo by Barbara Lees - used with permission)

I continue to learn and be inspired by those who manage to hold living and dying simultaneously in dialogue and planning.

I am touched by the grace, humour, and skill individuals show when they balance planning for dying with planning for living, and still live in the moment.  I think of individuals who have talked about dying while preparing to graduate, marry, grow up, celebrate holidays, gather with loved ones.

Mom…. “My preference is to die at home,…. I don’t want to inconvenience anyone… Remember to CARE FOR THE CAREGIVER…. What should we eat for Christmas dinner? Who has the shopping list?”

(For more about Barb the family photographer.)