Sunset is the most magical and potent time of the day for me. All those brilliant colors warped and layered on and around each other. The vision before me is an organic, living tapestry of a whole day painted in the sky above. Each aspect of the day is woven together present in its essence at the end.
We can take a lesson from Mother Nature. What would our End of Life need to look like to contain the essence of the whole of our lives? How do we stay true to the life we have lived if our End is some distant, removed, sterilized, isolated, unattended, unimagined image?
Staying true to your life requires you to look at your upcoming End, to look at Death. This End point must be looked at in order to reach it in the way you desire. As you know, your life will end with or without your consent. So, as with any other major decision, change or transition in your life, you should really be the one orchestrating it. No one knows what you want and don’t want better than you.
Do you know what your choices are? You can’t paint a very interesting painting if you believe your only tool is an orange crayon. What if you had an entire art room full of options to choose from? Your End is like that. Begin by looking at the image you have in your mind of what you think your End of Life might look like. Now, craft an image that matches the fullness of your life. Paint the mastery of your own existence into your End of Life.
Planning for the End no more ensures that it will come faster than does planning to win the lottery.
The first step in planning for your End of Life is writing an Advanced Directive (formerly called a Living Will). It should cover more than whether you want CPR or not. It can allow much more flexibility and creativity in your options, not simple yes or no answers. You can specify that you want to stay on artificial breathing for a week and then allow it to be turned off. You can have massage and acupuncture for pain management as well as morphine.
I also encourage you to write a Death Plan. Like a Birth Plan, you choose and communicate the kind of care you need to be fully supported medically, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It fills the gap between the Advanced Care Directive and funeral plan. Get specific. Pick the colors, the scents, the music, the fabrics, the whole nine yards. Craft the mastery of your own existence into your End of Life.
Ashley T Benem, Death Midwife, LMP and Minister, is the founder of the non-profit A Sacred Passing: Death Midwifery Service and the creator of The Art of Death Conference. She offers a variety of public education for end-of-life care and training in Death Midwifery care. Contact Ashley at www.asacredpassing.com.