Updated: Jun 26, 2019
*Featured on The Conversation Project*
"Do you have an advance directive?" asked a woman sitting at a table in the cafeteria at Atrium Health Hospital. What's crazy is I had just postedabout death and the importance of preparation a few days before. I must say, being asked about having an advance care directive was one of the best things that happened on April 16th for me. I'm not sure if you noticed that I mentioned the hospital, which is where my grandmother was rushed the night before due to back-to-back seizures. I was doing everything possible to keep calm and not burst into tears, until that question was asked. In that moment, everything else disappeared and I reminded myself of the big picture...
About five weeks prior to my grandma being admitted into the hospital, we had just gotten news that her health was declining. Hospice care was being introduced to the family and she went from walking, to a wheelchair, to a hospital bed in a matter of weeks. This wasn’t the most pleasant experience, but from a positive standpoint my grandmother made her end-of-life wishes very clear to my family a few years ago.
I think she was always prepared for end-of-life and it showed through the random conversations she’d have with my mom, aunts and I. Death isn’t something we avoid in my family, so anytime my grandma had something to say related to it, we’d listen. She wanted to be as independent as possible. She wanted people to see her for the strong woman she was and not treat her any differently should illness occur. She also gave specific instructions about who she did NOT want to use to prepare her body. My grandma also expressed how she did not want a long funeral service, you know like how Aretha Franklin's funeral lasted a whole eight hours? Yeah, like that! Her funeral was 45 minutes at the most. Sweet and to the point! Lastly, she wanted us to move on with our lives, which is where we are now. Getting used to the new normal of her no longer being around, no longer hearing her laugh, and no longer seeing her heavenly smile.
My grandmother’s death definitely made me see the importance of being clear about what I want and do not want for my end-of-life wishes. I am currently in the process of writing a letter for my family and friends about my wishes. I’m a lover of humor and I do well with keeping things light, so I think the letter will be informative and entertaining all in one. You may say this sounds morbid, especially if I’m not dealing with an illness or anything, but the best time to make your wishes is when you’re in good health! That’s what my grandma did and she left a great example to follow.
Break the Ice
Society has groomed us to see aging as a sign of death/the end, but what about the mortalityrate for babies, children, teens and young adults? From school shootings, to illnesses and homicides, death is definitely not thinking about a person's age. When we look through the lens of ageism, we are denying ourselves the opportunity to having an outline that will help us and our loved ones.
It can be awkward having a conversationabout the end-of-life with someone, but you have to break the ice. It's like when you go on a first date and you're hesitant of what to talk about (that could just be me), it's difficult in the beginning until the ice is broken with a joke, a random story, or the basic questions "so what do you like to do for fun?". The same goes for initiating a conversation about death.
My grandmother's wishes weren't in depth, but they were clear. As I reflect on the entire process, everything makes sense for why sharing our wishes is important. You don't necessarily have to write a four-page letter and seal it with a kiss, just talk. My grandmother's love for us was shown in how she took the time to make her requests known. What I want you take away from all of this is the big picture. It's more than an uncomfortable conversation with a loved one, or making yourself decide what your wishes are. The big picture involves research, talking, and planning to ensure we have the necessary things in place for when our time to use it comes. A burden that our loved ones will not have to worry about. So, how’s your big picture looking?
"Stay ready and you'll never have to get ready."
Rest in peace, Evelyn Julia Davis