When you’re in the midst of it, it makes no sense. Death and dying are the topics that currently surround me. At the moment I am feeling empty and confused. Previous experience tells me to go with it, and it will pass. And so I do…..
I am surprised to find myself musing so deeply about end of life issues. While I can perhaps explain it as being sparked by my brother’s recent death along with my own sense that an old part of me is also passing away, those explanations don’t seem to address the level of my current obsession.
In this region of the world, it seems that everyone is starting to talk about end of life issues. My own Pioneer Valley is suddenly alive with all kinds of sponsored meetings and informal gatherings where folks come share what’s on their minds about this heretofore “avoided” topic. The “death cafe” movement is sweeping the nation, and the world. And I’m participating.
Apparently new energy and interest has arisen to feed the hunger of post-50 boomers who are coming to grips with the facts and feelings of aging and their own inevitable passing. The earliest of the boomers are 68 approaching 70. At 74, I find myself in the midst of this new openness to discussion about the “inevitable” and both happy and sad to be here.
What I appreciate is that these conversations are truthful, real, and no holds barred. There is much to talk about–the laws, the feelings, the choices, the fears, the differing ways people contemplate what a “dignified journey to the end of life” means to them. And there are important decisions to be made…before the possibility of illness and incapacitation.
I go online and check out recommended resources. The Conversation Project is one of the many helpful organizations that are springing up to help families have “the conversation.” An essential conversation to have before a crisis occurs when adult children may be thrust into making tough decisions without knowing the wishes of the dying parent. I recommend the Five Wishes resource. And the extraordinarily clarifying playing card set Go Wish.
And yes, I am in the midst of it.
Not the least of which may be my own transit. In recent years, I’ve been happily helping newly retired boomers ponder the question why not do what you love for their own next unscripted chapters. I don’t expect my commitment to this joyful work will ever end. I love to help folks connect with their missions, and meaning, at any age. As my vigorous 92-year old neighbor reminds me, after surprising me with his request to buy my book, “I’m still alive, and I want to have a purposeful life!”
BUT…maybe I’m getting a glimpse of my own next challenge, that of planning to die gracefully and help others to do the same. That task seems to be taking up more space on the back-of-my-mind priority list. While aging does not change the need to keep doing what one loves, it certainly colors the discussion. It perhaps shifts the questions a bit to “How can we maintain a life of meaning with more limited mobility and energy?” “How can we keep going happily, while we grieve for what we are losing?” And what new forms might the doing of what we love, and being useful in the world, need to take as we age?
Something to watch and notice and witness, and go with the flow of it. Including the confusion and emptiness that may attend the process.
Yes, this is what is…right now.
Still in all, I am very clear about one thing:
This life journey author will probably do what she always does. Keep noticing what surfaces, and keep writing about it.