Last fall, the first Hospice Peterborough DIEalouges were hosted at Lett Architect Studio. These sessions were about opening up a conversation about death and dying to the community. During one of these sessions a question was posed to the attendees: If you could write a note now to the people who will be responsible for your non-medical care at the end of your life, what things would you want them to know?
It was one of four questions that participants in the DIEalogues could choose from and respond to. After spending some time reflecting personally on this question, there was discussion with others. Then following a period of time, people were offered the chance to talk with the whole group.
One woman spoke about this incredible moment of revelation – that she had never thought about what she wanted her dying to look like if she had the choice. More than that, she realized that even if she knew, her family and friends did not know so how could they help to make sure the important pieces are there? This ignited a spark that resonated with the other 40 participants and the discussion was rich.
Three days later I met up with this person and she couldn’t wait to show me the list she had created for her two daughters; she was sending this list to them along with an updated copy of her will.
Here is what she wrote to her daughters, Amy and Grace*:
The things I would like you to know if I can’t ask for them as I come to my dying.
Please play country music when appropriate. I like Victoria Banks, Tim McGraw, Georgia Florida Line, Zac Brown Band, Deric Ruttan and many others.
Please make sure I am as comfortable as possible: warm, pain free and with mouth care.
Please read to me if I can’t read. I love books of any kind, but particularly murder mysteries, or forensic pathology stories such as those written by J.D. Robb, Faye Kellerman and Kathy Reichs.
If appropriate, I would like to participate in complementary therapies such as massage and therapeutic touch, such as Reiki. Meditation is also very important to me.
I have such an artistic family! If possible, I would love to have Nanna’s seascape, any of Poppa H’s sunset paintings and if there is room for it, my bronze Emperor Penguin Mother and Chick on the carrera marble base. This last piece represents the struggles I had with a person during a period of time and it was created out of much love.
If Caroline* is still in my life I would like to be able to see her. Please make sure that someone will look after her for the rest of her life.
Please don’t prolong my life if there is poor quality of life and a grave prognosis. Please also give me your permission to let go of life, otherwise I may be hanging on in order to look after you. I was born a caregiver, and will be a caregiver to the end, so please reassure me that you will be alright after I pass.
Please place Harley and Oscar’s urn into the niche with mine.
— Love Mom
We have no guarantee about what the end of our life will look like, or whether we will have an opportunity to have some control over it. That should not prevent us from spending time considering this and informing important people in our life of our request.
I believe this allows for the possibility of being in the kind of space that will be most helpful to our dying. It also gives us pause to reflect upon things that are important to us now in life.
Give it a try!
* all names have been changed to protect identity