Guidance for The Inevitable

By Jane A Malkoff MSN RN NP

Experiencing informative conversations about mortality with loved ones is uncommon.  This is odd in an age where planning for everything is the norm from gender reveal parties, to Kindergarten round-ups, to new restaurants on the to-try list, to annual vacation destinations, to college tours, to managing big purchases, etc.

Conversations about mortality are saved to address later or avoided altogether.  It seems a burden or scary for children to have to think about or hear about death.  It seems a burden or scary for older adults to have to answer questions about their plans, finances or wishes at a time when they are in a health decline.

Death is natural.  It is real.  It will happen to everyone.  People at any age can engage in death conversation as easily as they can engage in conversation about the color of the sky, how to behave and the importance of work.

The experience during the last years or months of life is often not imagined.  The journey, regardless of one’s age, is typically filled with a period of illness and intense decision making.  Statistically, most people do not live with sound mind and body until one night at a very old age they fall asleep peacefully after a wonderful day with family and pass.  The process of death, like birth and life itself, is a journey.  It is undeniable others will need to support and help make decisions.  Any journey which is inevitable is worthwhile to talk about and plan.  The unspeakable can be spoken.

Death planning talk is more than a religious affiliation and an afterlife belief.  Death talk involves bravely discussing the hard parts such as preferred places to age and die, how to afford to age and die in the preferred places, establishing health care and financial decision makers, clarifying what insurance will and will not pay, planning the celebration of life (funeral) and more.  Death planning sets an example for generations to come who will begin to talk openly about mortality and give the gift of a plan to their loved ones.

While reflecting on 2019 and anticipating opportunities on the horizon for 2020, consider talking openly about death.  Recognizing our common humanity in this day and age is important as well as recognizing it is our birthright to offer guidance to generations to come.  Birth is natural and celebrated with joyful tears and parties.  Death too is marvelous and to be celebrated which is possible only when speaking of it becomes commonplace.