End of Life Doesn’t Mean End of Choice

11_Angel Crying_unknownConversations about an end of life plan don’t sound like the stuff of holiday blogs, I realize. But tell me, when is the right time for such a talk? As I type, beloved members of my family are navigating these difficult waters. And it makes me mindful that I don’t want there to be any guesswork as to how my life ends.

So, here it is. If my brain isn’t working, and my body relies on machines to function, you have my permission to kiss me, whisper what you want to me, and unplug the machines. If I have a terminal illness, I want to spend my last days surrounded by my loved ones and pets in the comfort of my own home. I want pain relief, to make the last days as comfortable as possible.I want you to accept my decision to reject medical treatments and medications or embrace my choice to try and fight. I’d like to have a view out a window from my bed. I want to hold your hand and tell me it is okay to let go when it’s time. And when I die, so help me God, I’ll haunt you if you harbor any guilt or feeling of responsibility in regards to my passing.

At a recent board meeting for Seattle’s Providence Hospice Foundation, we were joined by the CEO, who shared his thoughts  about the future of medical care. As the rest of the medical community spirals into panic mode, touched off by the what ifs of Obamacare, we had a rich conversation about the changing state of medical care. It includes a more compassionate, loving approach to end of life issues – and is driven by the all-mighty dollar.

ICU stays are expensive, and ICU deaths are emotionally and financially bankrupting. Our pocketbooks and commonsense are making for better communication and more intimate care of the ailing. They are leading oncologists to segue into palliative care doctors, trained to treat the whole person, sooner. We are resisting the urge to push the next treatment and the next down the throats of patients. Instead we’re asking about quality of life, goals, choices.

In an article on mercurynews.com, experts assessed the costs of dying. Hospitals are beginning to question whether they are prolonging life or protracting a death. It’s good to hear the medical community thinking in this direction.

So, as unpopular as it may go down, I want you to think about the end of your life. You deserve to choose your path, and now is the time. It is a gift to yourself, and your loved ones. Spare those you love from the experience of trying their best to make decisions for you while they are raw with emotion. If you stay silent, they will have to guess. And that’s no way to finish your beautiful life.

5 thoughts on “End of Life Doesn’t Mean End of Choice

  1. Jenn –

    As always, your words evoke an emotional, warm response — even when discussing something that can be really hard to talk about! As I type, I’m watching my father trying to sleep through the misery that is pneumonia, and thanking God that he is doing so very much better that he even feels the misery!

    But on the practical side, I wanted to tell you and your followers about a really helpful booklet the hospital here provides, and I have seen in Washington hospitals as well. In these last few months we have learned first hand the need to address this topic openly and plainly, before the need truly arises, and this booklet addresses very clearly the wishes we each need to share with our loved ones. Called “The Five Wishes”, it provides a place to record the very decisions you mentioned, so that they are not just verbally expressed but put into writing. Most states accept this as a legally binding document. More information about “The Five Wishes” is available on the Aging With Dignity website at:

    https://fivewishesonline.agingwithdignity.org

    Filling this out is a gesture of love to yourself and to your loved ones, ensuring clear instructions and peace of mind for all. God bless you for caring enough to remind us of the importance of this gift during this season of giving!

    1. Stacy,

      Thank you for the link to such a powerful tool. And we will keep you in our prayers during this difficult time. I wanted you to know, that from what I’ve witnessed in this life, the tall tree in the family is rarely the most brash, fiery, person. Instead, like a forest, thinned through the natural acts of God, seasons of storms, rains and fire; the tall tree is the one that always quietly withstood the torrent and waited. You are always and will always be the tall tree, standing guard over your family, helping to guide good choices and though nervous about making tough decisions – always come to the discussion with thoughtful, poignant, caring words. I love you, Stacy and admire you as a person. I’m blessed to have you as a role model and a sister.

      Love,
      Jenn

      1. Jenn –

        Your words are as warm and filling as a cup of Mom’s hot chocolate, leaving a lingering taste of heavenly flavor. I won’t argue with you as you paint a beautiful picture with your words, except to say that you may have mistaken me with someone else. But I am so richly blessed to have YOU as a sister, one whom I admire, cherish, appreciate, and would like to grow up to be like! :)

        We so appreciate your prayers as we walk this really difficult, labyrinthine trail — we are buoyed by your prayers and a knowledge that God goes before us, beside us, and behind us. We cling to His promises, and hold on through the knowledge of James 4:13 — I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength.

        <3 you!

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