The teaser before a commercial break on the nightly news was “With the family around the table on the holidays, is it time for the conversation?”
I pondered some humorous subjects that might be the topic of this mysterious discussion with the family together. The facts of life? Grandma’s having a sex change operation? We’ve decided to offer little Johnny as a human sacrifice?
“The conversation”, that you should consider having with the family gathered this year, is about your end of life plans. I’m thinking that if you’re not the kind of family that’s comfortable enough to have already had this discussion, you’re already immersed in holiday stress with the family gathered. This may be the worst possible time to discuss this particular topic. One of the reasons this topic is avoided is because some people are not comfortable fulfilling wishes that do not match their own. So perhaps the topic should be broached with “Even though I don’t agree, I want to honor your wishes” as an opener.
After a fairly well produced segment about the importance of making your plans known, the anchor chatted with the producer about whether he had spoke with his own family on the subject. This is where it veered off course. “I spoke to my daughter, and she was glad I told her what I wanted”.
Last year we found out my father in law has a incurable condition. When we mentioned it to my step son he said “Opa has a lot of years ahead of him”. He may, the man is eighty and he could very well see ninety, but it was obvious he simply could not picture losing his grandfather, in his mind it will never happen. The other day, one of my step son’s friends died in an automobile accident. My point is we never know how much longer we’ll be here, there is not a particular age at which you should start planning. In fact, by the time you have grandchildren you have probably made your desires known, I have. Younger people should be the ones talking about their end of life decisions.
Younger people are the ones that are taken by surprise. So the conversation between the producer and his daughter should have been about her plans.
Our final plans in life represent our life after death. They are ever so much more important than our funeral preferences, what we want done with our body or whether we prefer flowers or gifts to charities. Some people will remember the ceremony, but the people we love will remember the other things we leave behind. Not just assets, but also liabilities.
Will we leave behind an argument, as family members decide what care we should receive in our final hours? Will we leave behind guilt, as a loved one struggles with the decisions they’ve had to make for us? Will we leave behind responsibilities that we be completed without us? A child that wonders why its parent made no provisions?
End of life and after life desires are our legacy. Talking about sex will not get you pregnant, talking about death will not make you dead. Survivors do better knowing they’ve done the right thing.