Thinking About Dying, Part 1
I’ve been thinking more about dying. I’m not trying to be morbid or depressing, but at a certain point in time, it becomes quite clear you aren’t going to live forever. As a teen, I remember thinking about old age. The very concept of dying was so very far away, so remote, as to not even be on the radar. Now, it seems, death is catching up with me.
We lost both my dad and my father-in-law a few years ago. My mom is now elderly and in assisted living. Most of my parents peers—the “village” that raised me—are gone. Like many people my age, I’ve been thinking about dying more and more. It’s sad of course, but part of life. My new awareness of death made me wonder how many in my generation are approaching the concept head on…practically. I was not surprised to find novel approaches to death out there, considering how we Boomers changed our world and took on a different perspective about so many things.
One of these unique approaches appeared in an article I read a while back. It discussed “death cafes,” a concept that is gaining momentum across the country. In a death café, people (largely Boomers) gather to discuss the practical decisions that have to be made as one moves toward the end of one’s life. The article pointed out that facing death seems especially tough for Boomers, who invented the “youth culture” and have been so focused on maximizing their time here and prolonging their youth. Talking about death with others makes it far less scary, lonely, and depressing. There is even a website to help guide the discussions: www.deathcafe.com. Like with any of life’s other momentous events, discussing death with others opens a new way of thinking, exposes alternative options, and promotes the sharing of ideas. I get that. I think it is a great idea.
Along the same lines, the story of Brittany Maynard has been in the news recently. Brittany was a young woman dying of a brain tumor who wanted to both live and die on her own terms. She knew her death would be slow and painful and cause great suffering to herself and her loved ones. She wanted to choose when to end her life, as peacefully as possible and while still in control of her faculties. She did so early this November. She was forced to leave her home in California and move to Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal. Of course this raises a host of legal/ethical/moral issues that I don’t want to get into here, but it did get me thinking, again, about practically approaching this inevitable issue of death.
Control, peace, self determination, planning ahead, facing reality, minimizing pain for loved ones: these emotions are far better than dread and denial and procrastination that tend to get in the way of end of life decisions.
To that end, my husband and I filled out our advanced medical directives and completed our wills. And we are also plowing through a workbook written by my Boomer Connections partner Rita McCulloch. Entitled Before the Stress Begins, this useful tool lays out all of the critical info we need to have in place before the inevitable comes.
That’s enough facing of reality for today.
Next time: Where should we be buried? We both left our childhood homes and churches long ago and moved several times for our careers. Where is “home”?