Monday, 25 May 2015

Having "That" Talk

Have you had "that" talk with your family?

I don't mean the one about where babies come from.

I mean the other one.  The one that people with chronic illnesses are forced to think about, but sometimes try to avoid talking about.

It's national Palliative Care Week, which is as good a reason as any to have the talk with your family and loved ones.

I'm not saying that just because you have lupus you need to think about how you want to handle your own death.  I'm saying that because you're a human being you need to think about how you want to handle your own death.  As well as thinking about it, you need to talk about it, specifically talk about it to the people who are most likely to be left making decisions when the time comes.

One of the things I noticed in hospital chaplaincy is that there is a lot of guilt around death, that just doesn't need to be there.

A family doesn't know whether Mum wanted the machines turned off or not.  Either they decide to turn it off, and feel guilty because their decision ended her life prematurely and she might not have wanted that; or they don't turn it off and feel guilty because they're unnecessarily prolonging her death and she might not have wanted that.  It's much easier for the family who knows exactly what the patient wants.

If you had the choice where would you die? In the hospital? In a dedicated hospice? At home with your loved ones?

Would you want to fight to the last?  Do you want to be resuscitated, even when there's no hope continuing to any quality of life? Or would you rather turn the machines off once recovery was considered impossible (or as close to impossible as can be measured?)

Are you burial with a big monument type of person, or a scattered ashes at the beach person?

What do you believe about life and death?

Me? As a human being? As someone with a particular theological perspective on life and death? As someone who has worked around people dying and their families? As a mother?

Here's my thoughts, such as they are.  For me, human life is a sacred gift.  But that doesn't mean it's necessary to prolong it unnecessarily. I'm OK with turning of the life support machines, and I'm OK with not being resuscitated when the time comes.  For me, extreme measures to keep a body alive unnecessarily is just prolonging death.  I'm not afraid of death (although I admit to being afraid of pain.)

I've always thought that, because of my belief in the value of human life, I would oppose any form euthanasia.  I've been rethinking that, in general, and even for myself. In general, people don't all believe the same things I do.  I can't impose my beliefs on them.  Perhaps there is a case for euthanasia, as long as there are strong safeguards in place to ensure the patient has chosen it freely.  I can see a situation where I might choose it - a point at which caring for me is putting an unreasonable strain on my family.  I couldn't cope with seeing my family not coping. I think God would understand, dying to protect someone else.

I'm not so worried about where I die, but would like any useable organs to be donated. I won't be using them any more; and my understanding of resurrection doesn't require all of my bits to be kept together. (I believe God isn't limited by our physical situation.) So for me, giving away organs to people who need them, is just finishing off this life by showing love to my neighbour, as I have tried to do throughout my life.

And I want to be cremated, and my ashes poured over a rose garden.  In fact, we're planting the roses now; so they'll be well-established when the time comes.

That's me.  Your thoughts might be totally different.  That's the good thing about thinking about this stuff before anyone has to make any decisions.

Talk with your family.  It might be uncomfortable, a bit awkward.  But, when the time comes to make the decisions, they will know what you want, which will save them a whole lot of unnecessary guilt on top of the necessary grief they will deal with.


1 comment:

  1. We did it a few years ago and have for each other a written document ("Early directives in the event of death"). It's not a testament, but it's legal and helps to decide. I was glad to have it a few months ago, just in case, and even more happy not to have to use it finally ! Claire


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