Ten of us gathered for a family style dinner at my home in Virginia Beach on April 14th 2014. It was planned around the 7th Annual National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) on April 16th.
We were following in the footsteps of the work of a group of healthcare and wellness leaders who are committed to break the taboo regarding conversations about end of life. This group launched a website and project on August 24th 2013 called “Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death.” www.deathoverdinner.org
Here’s what set our dinner apart from others
- There were nearly fifty years separating the youngest (26) and the oldest (73). That brought to the table many lifetimes of living.
- It was an evening all about living well, eating well, dying well, and the choices we can make in living our life to its end.
- Jim White, founder and owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios, joined us to talk about these many things.
- We recognized that dying is about living. Living to the end of our days. That we are living until we die. It’s about our vitality and what we love about life, and when time grows short, what is most important to us.
- We chose to watch together two videos before we ate rather than have these assigned as ‘homework’ before this evening;
Randy and Sandy’s Advance Care Plan, 6 episodes on Vimeo where puppets showed us the light hearted approach to much needed conversation. https://vimeo.com/channels/722879
Imagine, a NHDD Speak Up Video, an amazing video on advance care planning, gracefully explaining why it matters for All of us.
What DID we talk about?
We began our meal with a toast to each other and to those who we carry in our hearts and are no longer with us.
Some of us had never experienced a serious illness of a loved one or themselves. Others had had a heart attach and were cancer survivors.
We talked about death and how we want to be remembered. How to deal creatively with death and making our life speak in a meaningful way. We acknowledged it was easier to talk about when we are gone and what we want left behind and remembered for than to talk about how we want to die.
We talked about the fear of the unknown and nonexistence. We knew this to be a topic for another time.
We shared our stories of someone, a loved one who died, a parent, a brother, a grandparent — those young, who died too early and those who reached a ripe old age before they passed. One shared about a son who died at 16. A story was told about a car crash that could have been catastrophic but they walked away.
THE SIMPLE TRUTH ABOUT OUR EVENING?
There’s nothing like the present and living each moment.
That we should be prepared & have a plan.
That dying we can on our own terms.
Here’s what emails followed our evening:
The evening was magical. Everyone opened up to share their experiences while the others sat quietly and absorbed the words.
We walked away feeling more at ease about discussing death. The food was so healthy, comforting and tasty.
It was amazing…I already have 2 couples interested in the next one!!
(On a lighter note) I adored the idea of an off switch.
I am thankful for this wonderful dinner to die for, dying and dining, or dying to eat night… “Which ever may apply ,” 🙂 I think the time is right for everyone to share their thoughts of life’s last breath and how they prefer to deal with it.
And for me, the hostess: I’ve been going over and over our evening. I wasn’t clear what would unfold. But what was apparent, was that all of us were willing to be part of creating this evening together. We simply let it happen. I continue to feel empowered …and comforted and released.Tags: Advance Directive, Death Over Dinner, Dying, End of Life, NHDD
But these days, you can flip through channels and hear commercials and see public awareness ads on such subjects as depression, mental illness, AIDs, breast cancer, domestic violence, autism, memory loss and Alzheimer’s. This is a good thing. Hearing about these things can help those who are in the need to know and help others become aware and understanding.
Isn’t it time to lift the taboo about not talking about dying? Isn’t it a good idea to have infomercials about how to be prepared, have a talk, and have a plan?
There’s a lot of discussion on this — opening up and talking about end of life — on the web. Wonderful and empowering sites. To name a few: The Conversation Project, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation, Death Over Dinner, National Healthcare Decision Day, Compassion and Choices, and ACP (Advance Care Plan) Decisions. These organizations and related sites center around being prepared for the inevitable and dying the way you would want.
Yes, it’s a fact. We all get dying, somehow, someday. It’s unavoidable. A dying awareness campaign applies to everyone. The commercials wouldn’t prevent or cure ourselves of dying but they’d make us aware of the need to know ourselves, the choices (medical, palliative, legal), and the problems that we may face when dying.
Let’s face it, being discerning about all this frees us to focus on something very important when the time comes – letting go and helping our loved ones let us go too.
I believe it’s time to launch an awareness ad campaign on how we die and how you can be prepared.
What do you think?
I’m not one to suggest something if I wouldn’t do it. So heads up, I’m currently working with others creating YouTube infomercials that will be coming shortly. Probably by February 2014. I’ll keep you posted.
Tags: ACP Decisions, Advance Care Planning, Compassion and Choices, Conversation Project, Death Cafes, Death Over Dinner, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation, NHDD
Her older brother is going for testing now to be a live donor. This would be three times with living donors willing to save her life. The first transplant lasted twelve years, the second, ten. She’s in her 50s. Donors, doctors and medicine clearly are her heroes.
There’s no question she is facing tough stuff but her attitude speaks volumes. She’s one of the most vibrant and brave people I’ve met.
She wrote me to say that the subject of dying is completely terrifying to her and said that’s true for the many others who are fighting for their lives every day.
Dying scares me too.
But it isn’t a choice. We are all going to die. Knowing this doesn’t make it any easier to talk about it but not talking about it can lead to unwanted care. And unwanted care is wrong care.
That’s why I write about dying. We can choose how we wish to die by making our choices reflect who we have been our whole life. How our beliefs, background, family, and experiences all come into play as we live every day to the end of our days.
Dying is deeply personal and should be about you. That means knowing your wishes and the wishes of those you love.
It’s knowing you are going to die and being prepared for it at any time. That’s better than not having the conversation and an advance care plan. That’s better for you and better for your loved ones.
I reflect on her words and yes, it’s hard to know what to say to her. I want the best for her. Now and tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. I hope she thinks about what she is saying and thinks about what I am saying too.Tags: Advance Care Planning, Advance Directive, Dialysis, Dying, NHDD, Transplant