Last week I participated in an end of life program in Sturgeon Bay. The room was filled with people of all ages, each seeking the information that was especially important to them. The morning’s presenters covered topics related to legal preparations, funeral arrangements, necessary medical documents, and medical considerations to discuss with your physician. The audience was engaged as these experts raised many areas for each to consider.
We spent the afternoon discussing hospice care, the inner work of dying, and the deep spiritual considerations that those facing their end of life frequently discuss. The audience was contemplative, filled with emotion and introspective as they considered facing these times in their own lives.
After it the day ended, I reflected on all of the issues that were addressed, and spent a long time processing it all. In truth, there is no limit to what my own discussion needs to be with my family. While I have frequently broached these topics with my husband and children, this seminar raised even more areas that could and should be considered. I am grateful for the comfort and actual passion that I have for the end of life, yet I am far from immune from the discomfort that I feel when I go ever deeper in this discussion. And I realize that the parts that make me squirm are the ones that I have not attended to in as much detail as I might. More food for thought…..and more work to do!
Tomorrow I will speak at Sturgeon Bay’s United Methodist Church. It will be a day long program designed to “get the conversation started” about life and death matters. That is so scary to all of us, it makes us squirm. Yet I have found that facing this very uncomfortable topic brings such a surge of life to us, that I am passionate about getting it started!
What is it that makes us squirm? Certainly we all know that we begin and end our lives in this world, yet that reality is something we tuck away below the busy lives we engage ourselves in. When friends or family face a serious medical diagnosis, we squirm again. And again. Hopefully tomorrow, there will be a room filled with those that are ready to begin this conversation. The conversation that we must first have with our owns selves; the plans we have for our final years legally, financially, and medically. The funeral we want held to honor our lives. The words we want to share with our family, the persons that we want to appoint to speak for us if we are unable. And the choices for medical decisions that we want upheld during that time.
These are hard questions to face within ourselves. We must face our mortality, visualize our final days. But as we do, that squirming lessens until it finally stops. Our energy is free to be spent in life, and living. In being more fully alive and vibrant. And the plans are made, so that each of us can be assured that our own wishes are known. And that our family will be freed from squirming had they been asked to make decisions that they are not prepared to make.
My own mother’s story continues to bring me new life.
I have thought a lot about my mother this past week, as I celebrated my Mother’s Day as an eternally blessed mother and grandmother. She passed almost two years ago, and I miss her more each day. There is a piece of me that left this world with her, the relationship that was ours alone remains our unique dance. Yet I am grateful for her story, one which is shared in my memoir and continues to bring me ever new life.
Her story is not heroic, it is one of a strong and independent woman from her generation. My mother was both a mirror of the unspoken culture of her times, and also helped to break that mirror as a very independent thinker. For this, I thank her everyday. Her story is, though, one of a woman choosing family over career, struggling through her aging years which witnessed great loss for her as her vision and mobility grew ever more limited. Ultimately, it is the story of her walk through the medical system and her choice to say she had had enough.
Her gift to me was her story, the story of aging and decline. The story of needing an advocate within our medical system that continues to believe that life at all costs is to be the norm. It is the story of my own loss, my own struggle to remain an objective hospice nurse so that her care would be delivered as she chose it. But my most cherished gift came in being allowed to share myself as a Reiki Master with her, helping to allow her most peaceful transition from this world. And to spend those intimate hours with her before she passed.
My life has changed enormously since then. I am now sharing myself with others to help educate and illuminate end of life care and choices. And I am offering my services as an independent End of Life Consultant, as a guide and coordinator. Somewhere inside me, I knew then that this was to be my path, but to be walking firmly along it so soon is a truly blessed gift.