When the day comes for me to depart this mortal coil I don’t want a dour, somber affair. I want everyone to have a great big party, lots of laughter and lots of fun. Please remember to play lots of fun music, groups like The Beatles, Elvis, Pink, Glenn Miller, Rolling Stones, Meghan Trainor, Sam Smith, Kay Kaiser, Kelly Clarkson, Pur, Die Prinzen, Toten Hosen, Def Leppard, Joan Jett, Guns ‘n Roses, Journey, Queen, Huey Lewis and The News … you get the idea, eclectic but upbeat. Try to have some Guinness and some Bailey’s Irish Cream … Oh, don’t forget the coffee!
You may wonder why I’ve written the above paragraph, and the truth is that is what I would really like my family and friends to do to celebrate my life.
Mainly though, I wrote the above because I feel it is vital that we discuss these sort of things with our loved ones, and better yet, put it in writing. There are so many families out there who find themselves in the situation of trying to make decisions on behalf of a loved one who can no longer make their wishes known, and have no idea what their wishes are.
In our society the topics of death and dying are taboo. We don’t want to talk about such things with our families because it is too morbid, too sad to think about. We don’t want to think about our own death, nor about our loved ones’ death. I would like to challenge these societal norms, I think the kindest thing you can do for your family is to let them know how you wish to face the end of life and what type of service you’d like to be held in your memory.
Why do I say kind? Simply put, I have seen too many families torn apart with in-fighting trying to determine end of life care for a loved one or what should or should not be said or done for a funeral. When a family should be coming together and offering comfort to each other during a time of loss, these families are more divided and angry with each other than ever before. These are the types of things that can drive a permanent wedge between family members, and I cannot imagine anyone wanting that to happen.
When someone we love is dying, our emotions are all over the place and if at that time we are trying to decide about the pros and cons of feeding tubes, antibiotics, CPR, or other life-sustaining treatments VS palliative care it may become simply too overwhelming, and it is too easy for family members to be divided about what our loved one would have wanted.
If these things are talked about, and officially laid out, then when our time comes, our family can spend the time making the most out of every moment, making memories, sharing love, giving and receiving comfort.
It also makes a difference for the person who is passing, if the people around them are tense then they will be as well, possibly making their last days more painful.
So, talk to your children about your feelings and beliefs regarding death and dying, about your personal vision of what your funeral or memorial service should be like. Ask your parents and grandparents what their feelings and beliefs are regarding death and dying, what they’d like for their funeral or memorial service.
Also, talk to a lawyer. There are legal documents you can have drawn up that will specify your wishes. These documents vary from state to state, but most doctors will honor the requests within them. Tell your family where to find these documents.