Just a year ago this month, my mother died of a rare, incurable illness.
I’m sorry to put it so bluntly, but it’s the truth.
Death is not the first thing that most people want to talk about. It’s a good bet that for most people, it is the last thing they want to talk about. Maybe it seems that if we don’t talk about it, death won’t be able to reach us. But reality is that, like change and taxes, death is inevitable for all of us. It doesn’t matter what your religious beliefs are or even whether you have any at all—the plain fact is that someday our physical bodies will cease to hold on to life. And there isn’t a thing we can do about that.
So if we are all going to die, doesn’t it make sense to talk about it? It’s not like it’s a secret! Even before my mother’s terminal diagnosis, she spoke clearly to my father, brother, and I about her wishes. She appointed both a health care power of attorney and a statutory power of attorney to make decisions in case she couldn’t. She made plans for her funeral and communicated those both verbally and in writing to the funeral director and to us. She showed us where her important documents were and gave us a list of people to contact. She made a will and told us what it said so there would be no surprises.
As her illness progressed, she made sure we knew how she felt about the various treatment options she was willing to consider and those she was not. She was transparent about her feelings and her fears, her joys and her regrets. And when the end was inevitable, we knew exactly what to do. It was still difficult, but we were able to make the necessary decisions because we were certain that we were honoring her desires as well as we could.
Why am I sharing all this with you? It’s because I want you to think about your death. Not in a morbid or depressing way, but so you can give to your family the gift my mother gave to hers—the knowledge and confidence we needed to make the right decisions for her when her time came. I know it’s hard. But it is really important.
If you don’t know where to begin, call your pastor. Go to a hospital and ask to talk to a chaplain or whoever helps people make end-of-life plans. Ask your doctor. Do some internet research and download a form or guide. There are lots of resources available to help you. But do something. And don’t be afraid. Your family will thank you.