Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dying Matters - For Friends, Too

I’m in my best friend’s will.
She told me long ago what she was leaving me. It has no value to anyone in her family; in fact, she’d prefer they didn’t open the box at all. It’s a personal keepsake of our past, mostly high school.
I think it was when I was in St. Louis for her father’s funeral that I told her there was huge flaw in this plan. “You’re assuming you go first,” I told her. After a moment, she agreed that was problematic. (Plus, I really, really, really would like to have that box now.)
This week is Dying Matters week in the UK, a time for people to at least begin the difficult conversations we must have but try to avoid.
When we attend funerals we often reflect on, for example, the choice of music and say “I want that at my funeral” or “that reminds me of what I want at my funeral.” (I think my will specifies “Spirit in the Sky” and “I Happen to Like New York”, but I’ll have to double-check that.)
But if you’re like most people, you haven’t given those kinds of plans any thought. You haven’t even told anyone what kinds of treatment you want if your death is near. A recent study showed that 59% of people in the UK don’t want to die in the hospital. What the study didn’t reveal is how many of them have actually told anyone of those wishes. It’s important for many reasons, including the possibility that you will not be able to communicate those wishes when the times comes.
Don’t just discuss this with your family: include your friends. Ask them if they’ve made any plans, have any opinions on what they want or don’t want.
Need guidance? Check out http://www.dyingmatters.org/ for materials on how to have those conversations: with yourself and others.
Watch The Big Chill and check the playlist on your iPod; you may get some ideas there.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hi Vicki,

What a thoughtful and timely post. Shortly after Mother's Day I had a conversation with my mom about her wishes and end-of-life plans. It was eye-opening for both of us, I think. I didn't know she already had plans in the making, mostly financial, which was a relief for her to tell me. It's funny how uncomfortable such conversations can be at first. Of course, our chat was brought on, in part, her half brother's death. But I think it's important for children to directly ask their parents what they want. It not only reveals the parent's wishes and plans, but it brings people closer, I think. Thanks for sharing.

Jen Henderson