What motivates me in this work is that there’s a chance to make a difference, a possibility that through this work there could be less suffering.
LOVE. Love is the strongest driver of our lives. And we suffer when loved ones die. It’s the privilege of our being human. And yet my observation is that quite often we suffer even more because certain conversations didn’t ever happen. Certain unresolved issues were never talked about to find a state of peace with the status quo
I’ve watched families conflicted whilst the person is dying, because they are faced with difficult medical decisions, and they are forced to have conversations at a time of being very stressed.
I’ve watched families fight over the funeral and memorial arrangements, which could have been avoided if the deceased had talked about and made clear their wishes.
I’ve watched families end up not talking to one another because of a dispute about who gets what, or what’s to happen to a property that their parents owned.
Grieving is the kind of “swept-off-your-feet” experience that can mean that you may almost not recognise yourself. Emotions are so strong, the pain so deep, it’s hard to be calm, rationale, logical, and gracious. I’ve witnessed that the more thinking and talking that’s happened beforehand about the practical issues, the more it creates the possibility of greater compassion and ease and understanding later.
LEGACY includes our administrative affairs. I’ve witnessed grieving friends having to deal with administrative detritus – administrative issues that the deceased just never bothered to sort out while they were alive and able. And then, in this most tender vulnerable time after death, loved ones, are expected to resolve so much bureaucracy. Love Legacy Dignity offers a free Check List For Checking Out–which reviews everything you need to have in place to make it easier for those you are leaving behind.
DIGNITY: I also feel that we need to take care of owning the right to our personal DIGNITY. We’re outsourcing a lot of end-of-life decisions to medical professionals. It’s time to reclaim more agency, educate ourselves, gain more health-care literacy and become more clear about our own preferences.
‘The doctor does NOT always know best” Doctors were once trained to be “healers of life and easers of death” (The Hippocratic Oath). In the 21st century many doctors seem to have forgotten this second role –they are overly ready to offer just one more intervention, and then another.
I was recently told of a 98-year-old woman with advance dementia who had a heart attack. She had in place a Do Not Resuscitate order. This was ignored and she was successfully resuscitated. Why? Why go against the patient’s wishes? Why spend precious medical resources?
And then after death? Why call for the gurney to whisk the deceased to the mortuary asap? Our forebears had rituals, washing and dressing the person, people coming say their goodbyes, creating a memory table. For me, presencing these rituals is an extension of honouring the dignity of the deceased as well as our own and also offering ways of being with one another that help us accept our loss.
Dying is a rite of passage. We cross a threshold that is as huge psychologically as it is physically. And yet with the modernisation of dying, it’s being increasingly hospitalised, with new life-extending technologies and machines. In that setting it is hard to create what we need spiritually, psychologically, a place of being. Living one’s last days and hours in an environment conducive to crossing the threshold out of this earthly world makes a real difference to all concerned.