Here is a wonderful guest post from my friend, end-of-life caregiver, and death doula Anna Marshall.
“We all die. When is out of our control. This is a good how.” - Indra, The 100
For most of us, contemplating death and dying is not an easy thing to do. However, if we approach the topic with a posture of courageous vulnerability and humble honesty, considering our lives in the light of our mortality can be a profoundly rewarding practice, as it draws us closer to the miracle of existence and the heart of our own human experience.
We tend to avoid thinking about the end of our lives for all kinds of reasons. Either we are too busy living, or we assume our loved ones will be able to handle the details when the time comes, or we simply do not like thinking about it. Considering our death may cause us to reconsider how we are living life and perhaps we are not ready for that kind of reckoning. And yet, end-of-life decisions are still life decisions, and they must be made at some point, by someone. Why not us? Why not begin now?
When making end-of-life decisions, there are, of course, many details to think through and decisions to make. My friend, Willy, in his book Estimated Time of Departure, identifies two types of decisions that we all face at the end of life. There are the biological (medical and legal) decisions and the biographical (emotional and relational) ones. When facing either kind, one helpful thing we can do is identify the core values that shape our lives and allow those values to serve as a compass to navigate our experiences at the end of life.
There are many questions we can ask to peel back the layers of our relationship with life and death and bring our values to light. Here are a few to start with:
Your responses to these questions may change over time, and that is perfectly okay. Use them as prompts to check in with yourself on occasion and to invite others into an on-going conversation with you on this topic. Think about them, write about them, talk about them. Consider them in whatever way best serves you where you are.
With love and grace for the journey,
End-of-Life Caregiver and Death Doula