What it means to be ready to die whilst in the full flow of life

by Helena Dolny

I’m wondering how many of us are supporting someone in our lives who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness or a chronic disease which could, in time, become fatal?

That can be a hard walk in life to accompany that person along this road to its inevitable outcome – a privilege too – and precious. . . and exhausting.

What I’ve noticed is that it is not unusual for people who are dying, or companions to the dying person, to not want to talk about dying or any of the practicalities associated with it.

They want to focus on living and squeeze out every last ounce of joy that may come their way. My late husband, who died in the fourth year after being diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, only dealt with the practical stuff of wills and funeral wishes in the final week of his life. It was awful – so stressful. His signature, witnessed by two non-beneficiaries was so shaky by that time that it took three months for the bank to decide to accept it.

At LoveLegacyDignity we feel passionately that all of this practical stuff is best dealt with at an earlier time. We’d venture to say that there are huge benefits to discussing the practicalities of death when you are in the full flow of life. The stories people have shared, the research that has been done support us to say that people who’ve dealt with practicalities such as advance directives, relationship reviews, funeral wishes:

  • live longer, (perhaps because they are less stressed, more easily able to deal with hard decisions when they come up, because they already put time into thinking through issues;
  • spend less money on medical interventions in their last year of life – again they invested time earlier on being informed and have thought through their preferences
  • the conversations and their wishes are known and accepted. have more peaceful family relationships – less conflict – they’ve done the work, had the conversations and their wishes are known and accepted.

We designed our flagship program Live By Design- Finish Strong (LBDFS) with these benefits in mind.

Yes, lots of practical stuff, but we find that the overarching framework we offer LBDFS course participants not only supports people to engage in the conversations and start the necessary administrative work, but most importantly they take stock and clarify and celebrate the wonder of life.

We’re curious to hear your thoughts about what you think about what it means to be ready to die whilst in the full flow of life.