Discussing options

Talking about end-of-life issues and final arrangements is a healthy process. Getting the conversation started can be tricky, but the outcome is usually rewarding, revealing priorities and deeply-held values. Peace of mind, or a sense of relief on dealing with big issues, may result. Understanding and empathy may grow as we learn about each other's preferences and share reasons why we'd prefer this or that. In this blog entry I'll recommend several resources that help people start "the conversation" about end-of-life choices.

 A remarkable discussion group, led by Martha Johnson, author of Why Not Do What You Love?, started this month at the Holyoke Senior Center:  Living Fully, Aging Gracefully, and Befriending Death. This will be an on-going, open-ended opportunity (1st and 3rd Wed of each month, 6:00pm-8:30pm, details) to discuss the challenges and options facing us in the last one-third of our lives. On Aug 6 we had a lively, life-affirming discussion about our views in all three topic areas. Next meeting Aug 20.

Here are other recommended groups and methods designed to stimulate discussion and thought about end-of-life options and priorities:

  • The Coda Alliance, a not-for-profit organization helping people "plan and prepare for the concluding passages of life," invites us to play a card game called Go Wish. You can play online, or order a pack of cards to play with family and friends. I'll bring 4 packs to the Holyoke discussion group on Aug. 20. 
  • The Conversation Project, founded by Ellen Goodman, asks "Have you had the conversation yet?'  A Starter Kit is offered.
  • Death Cafés  - gather for tea, cakes, and discussion of death. Find future cafés in this international movement by visiting www.deathcafe.com. I have attended several, including one in NM with my sister, and I highly recommend them. Discussing death (ideas, fears, wishes, the mystery of it all..) with a small group of strangers is surprisingly easy, and often leads to deep insights and the sharing of heart-felt stories.
  • Death Over Dinner: "How we want to die – represents the most important and costly conversation America isn’t having."   "Let's have dinner..."  You choose the dinner guests; a 5-step planner on the website guides you in organizing a meaningful dinner event. (Read the August 2013 Huffington Post article about the launch of this initiative.)
  • Five Wishes -- to help "express how you want to be treated if you are seriously ill and unable to speak for yourself." Aging with Dignity offers Five Wishes in several formats and over 25 languages. Thanks to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, an online version of Five Wishes is freely available. 

I hope you will take advantage of at least one of these opportunities to explore options and focus on what you'd really like (and not like) as your life journey continues.   -- Sandy Ward

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions expressed here in "Sandy's Blog
are written by one individual (volunteer Sandy Ward) and may or may not reflect 
the views, opinions or positions of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts.