From time to time someone new will check out my BLOG, so for them I will preface this post. I have COPD, it is terminal, there is no cure and there is no reprieve. It is a slow time-consuming death and hopefully mine is still a few years out. This is about a conversation my wife and I had about what we will do when my death is close at hand.
This week my wife and I had the conversation. The “what” will we do when you’re real close to dying conversation? We have had it before, but it has always incited a fit of crying (both the wife and I) which has shortened and undermined the intent of the conversation considerable. But what brought about the conversation this time is that I was recently hospitalized with double pneumonia, with a secondary infection in my left lung, plus other issues, and that I was in the hospital for 21 days, a seriously long period given current medicine. At this point I have been out of the hospital for a couple of weeks, but have not made any significant progress since my release, which has caused me to have a fit of “woe is me.” My wife and I discussed at length what my wishes were and at what point did I want to implement my wishes. It was in fact a conversation to ensure that we were on the same page, and that I had not had a radical change in thought process. Our conversation was straight forward, and we managed to keep most the emotions out and re-affirm that we understood each other, and my desires, and that my wife was ready and able to abide by my desires and the decisions made. The conversation did not deviate from my Advanced Directive, or my Living Will. Copies of both documents are very handy, and the originals of both are in a safe deposit box at our local bank.
We were fortunate this time, we managed to keep our emotions in check, and we didn’t try to kid each other. But having said that, it was the single most difficult conversation I have had with anyone regarding anything in my entire life. The conversation acknowledges events that are coming. The conversation forces us to talk about death in a very real way, and made us have a reality check.
Death can sneak up on you and take you without notice, it can claim you in the blink of an eye, or it can drag on and on, slowly stealing your life. If you’re diagnosed with a potentially terminal or terminal disease, you generally have the time for the “conversation”. You have time to examine your situation, review your options, and identify potential decision points. You can sit down with a lawyer and have your decision formalized, and you can ensure your doctors are aware of whatever decision regarding your life you have made. As unpleasant as the “conversation” is, when the time comes you will be grateful. Your family and loved ones are better prepared. They know your decision and desires and they have decision points that help them make the right decisions for you so your desires are realized. And your doctors know what course of action they need to take.
Shifting slightly to speak to the reader, if you’re taken in the blink of an eye, hopefully you have taken the time to put together the necessary paperwork to de-complicate things for those you leave behind. Advanced planning for this can make life for those you leave behind much easier. It helps greatly in their transition to a world without you. You need to make it clearly understood what your desires are, the decisions you have made, and when they should be implemented. You need to be specific, and I don’t mean a little bit, I mean as specific as you can be, drawing information from as many sources as you need to convey your desires and decisions.
Once you have your defined your wants, made your decisions, it is imperative that you have the documents created that convey those decisions. Keep the power in your hands don’t let the courts get involved. So have your Living Will, Will, and Advanced Directive completed and available. Make sure your doctor knows you have these documents. Prepare prepare prepare!
Understand, having the “conversation” will most likely be one of the most difficult things you will have to do as an adult. It is an extremely emotional event, it digs into your soul, it exposes your inner thoughts, and causes you to think at an entirely different level. And that’s just you! If the conversation tears you up inside to have it, imagine the impact the conversation has on your spouse, your children, your parents, your preacher, your lawyer, your doctors? It has an impact on anyone who has even the slightest vested interest in your health.
But without the conversation and the documents to support it, you could be hanging on to life by a tread, you could be brain-dead, you could be on a respirator with no hope of ever breathing on your own again, or any other possible medical situation, and some judge, or lawyer, or doctor, a family member, or some political group, could end up making your final health decisions for you. That makes the thought of dying that much worst, doesn’t it. So prepare yourself. Prepare your family. And take care of the paperwork.
This hasn’t been one of the easier subjects for me to write about. But it is probably one of the more important subjects I have written about.
As always your comments and suggestions are welcome. Please take care, Bill