“Have you had the conversation?”
A major concern that I try to help people to face is the end of their lives. Not many people relish the thought of facing what is inevitable. Though most believe it would be easier on the loved ones they leave behind, most do not act until they are faced with terminal illness or they fail to act at all.
I had heard from families in the past about how difficult issues had to be dealt with at the end of their loved ones life – especially if the loved one could no longer speak for themselves. I had a similar experience personally with my father, though that experience was not as difficult as some others I had heard about.
Recently, I happened upon a podcast that addressed this issue. The subject of the podcast was The Conversation Project, and it went into some great detail about the importance of asking the questions that most of us do not want to face, and have a lot of difficulty asking. The guest on the program told the story of co-founder and director of The Conversation Project, newspaper columnist Ellen Goodman and how her personal experience with her own mother led her to see how much easier it would have been if certain issues had been addressed. “My mom was one of those people who could talk about your problems until you were bored with them. We talked about everything except one thing: how she wanted to live at the end of her life. Once or twice when we heard about a relative or friend who was comatose or on a feeding tube, she would say, “If I’m like that, pull the plug.” But, of course, when the time came there was no plug.” she is quoted on The Conversation Project website.
In her later years of life, Ms. Goodman’s mother was not able to speak for herself, so all of the difficult medical decisions fell upon her. Should there be “Another bone marrow biopsy? A spinal tap? Pain treatment? Antibiotics? I was faced with cascading decisions for which I was wholly unprepared. After all the years I had written about these issues, I was still blindsided by the inevitable.”
Realizing how much easier the experience would have been if her mother had been able to speak for her, she realized the importance of making sure that she would talk with her own children about these issues, and began to explore a way to promote the conversation for others to benefit. So in 2010 she began to speak with colleagues about the what she terms the “good deaths and bad deaths” that they had experienced. The result came as a grassroots campaign designed to promote the intimate dialogue that needed to take place about dying, and to encourage everyone to talk now so the answers will be there when the time comes.
The Conversation Project website is dedicated to help everyone, children or parents to start having that conversation. It is not about filling out advance directives or other medical forms, it’s about you and your loved ones want when it comes to end-of-life care. They have a starter kit that can help you get your thoughts together to begin the conversation.
I urge you to explore their website. The stories you will find there will help convince you to start the discussion today so that tomorrow will be easier.
The Conversation Project website: http://theconversationproject.org