December can be, for many of us, a difficult time of year. As we lose family members and friends over the years, holidays often remind us of those losses. Personally, this is the first Christmas I'm headed to Texas since the last Christmas I was able to spend with my mother. So although it's been almost two years, I'm not past some of those "firsts." And so when this poignant piece, How My Father Scheduled His Death, written by Karen Brown and republished by The Week, landed in my inbox over the past weekend, I knew I had to share it.
In her essay, author Karen Brown writes about her father's decision to allow death to come to him. He chose to end dialysis, which, as she describes with compassion interwoven with humor, he said, was not so much a hard decision although it was "a bit irreversible." Bittersweet is his end-of-life tale, but mostly it is tender and touching.
Watching a loved one's life come to an end, whether over years or weeks or days, usually brings sorrow. Even when we know this often means an end to pain or suffering, we still anticipate and feel loss. When you can go through it with that person, cognitively, I can only guess that often helps soften that loss. But not always is that possible.
When the person who is dying does not have the capacity after illness strikes to play a role in those decisions, the choices are left in the hands of loved ones. It is in those times that the greatest gift the dying might have given us is to have made those decisions already. This is where your planning now helps your loved ones later. This is how, even if you are not cognitively present, you can still provide support to your loved ones.
I talk a lot about planning and about talking to your loved ones about incapacity and death. These are not always easy conversations with clients, but my goal in my practice is to help guide my clients to make sure their wishes are carried forward. We put many of these wishes in writing in a Living Will.
These conversations are also not always easy for families to have. Sometimes the person planning has difficulty with the topic; sometimes the person hearing about the plans does not want to listen. But a great kindness is found in those who have covered these things enough to make these plans and discuss them well in advance with loved ones.
Even if you are not ready to do all of your estate planning, consider giving this gift to your loved ones this year. An estate planning attorney can help you set up your plans, put them in writing, and even have that conversation with your loved ones.
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