Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Give It A Lot of Thought

People are living longer today than they did 100 years ago.  In 1900 the average age at death was 47 years old.  Obviously technology and scientific advances have given us many more years of life (if we don’t develop an illness).  So what about this so-called life, how are you spending your time? 

Last night I went to a talk at the synagogue titled, “Making end-of-life decisions”.  When I walked in the majority of the folks in the room were much older than me.  Upon entering one woman told me to go home because I was too young to be at this talk.  Isn’t that an interesting assumption?  She was telling me because I wasn’t “old” I didn’t have anything to worry about for some time.  Who guaranteed me a life expectancy of 90?  There are no guarantees and that’s why the end-of-life discussions have to take place in every one of our homes.

We’ve seen many people die on television and the movies.  Let me tell you as someone who has been at more hospital beds and funerals than I can count; it’s not that glamorous.  What will make you the most comfortable?  Remember, don’t worry about what your family wants because these decisions may affect them on the emotional level, but it impacts you on the physical, emotional, and spiritual levels so your opinion counts.  In fact, only your opinion counts.

There are tools out there that will guide you through the process of making these end-of-life decisions, but it all starts with a conversation.  Both the doctor and the rabbi encouraged us to put our wishes in writing.  In this day and age of technology I would encourage you to get a small video recorder like a Flip video camera and record your wishes.  This eliminates and discussion about is the document authentic and were you of sound body and mind to make these decisions.

Western culture doesn’t talk about death, except when we are telling a story about a tragedy or recounting a story line in a movie.  Death is kept at arm’s length and yet it’s inevitable.  I guess the question I have for you is the one I ponder for myself quite often, “Is it the idea of pain and suffering that stops you from thinking about death, or is it the idea of not being?” 

Irvin Yalom wrote a book called, “Staring At the Sun”.  It discusses the fact that we all have death anxiety.  I told my father about this book and he told me he was the exception, he didn’t have death anxiety.  The next words out of his mouth were, “You know I have fewer years to live than I have already lived”…sounds like death anxiety to me. 

I feel fortunate that I can have these discussions with my family and friends.  In fact, I’m the Durable Power of Attorney for healthcare for both my parents and many of my friends.  They asked me to serve in this capacity because they know we’ve had lengthy discussions about their wishes and more importantly they know I’ll abide by their wishes.  Who do you have that you’re confident could fill that role?

This is the first of many posts that will address end-of-life issues.  I’m approaching the 500 post mark and there are only a handful of posts on end-of-life care…does that tell you something?  Let’s turn the tide and take better care of ourselves in all areas of our lives and that includes making sure we have the best death possible.

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