We all know that it is incredibly difficult to know what to say to someone who is dying. At the same time, as women over 60, we also know that there is no way to avoid these conversations. After all, when a friend, partner or family member is faced with a terminal diagnosis, they need our support. We just have to hope that our words do more good than harm.
I am a city girl. Born in London, I only had one brief experience with rural life, as a child, in Canada. The rest of the time I lived in cities like Denver, Seattle, Dallas, New York City and London.
It is a somber moment when someone mentions that a friend or family member has gone into hospice care. After all, hospices have a bit of a dark and dreary reputation.
On the surface, the concept of planning your own funeral sounds pretty depressing. After all, who wants to admit that they are mortal? Even those of us who accept the fact that we will one day no longer be on this beautiful planet, don’t like to think about it too often.
Most of us don’t think about palliative care until someone that we love needs it. In some ways, this is natural. No-one likes to think about their own mortality and it is even harder to imagine someone close to us suffering. That said, there are many reasons to talk about death, even if we are not yet directly impacted by it.
At some point in our lives, each and every one of us has a fear of death. This is completely natural. Perhaps you first thought about your mortality when you lost someone close to you as a child. Or, perhaps you started thinking about death as a teenager.
I had several milestone events that occurred during my husband’s bout with Stage IV cancer. I turned 60 the December before he died. Many friends came together and surprised me with a beautiful party, but I missed not having my husband there by my side, as he was at home, in hospice care.
Ok, I have a confession to make. As much as I know that it is counterproductive, I often find myself thinking about death.
If I asked you to imagine a Death Café, what kinds of images pop into your mind? If you instantly conjured up a picture of people wearing black, talking in hushed voices and drawing strange symbols, you wouldn’t be alone. I suspect that many people would have the same gut reaction.
Our lives are patchworks of experiences and people. Family, friends, lovers, partners, work colleagues, acquaintances and strangers are woven deeply into our memories. Over time, we stitch them together into patterns, confident that they will last forever. Of course, this is rarely the case and, ultimately, we must face the fact that dealing with loss is an inevitable part of life.