“Well, it’s easy to tell someone else to do that but it’s not so easy when you try doing it yourself …”
Most of us have had that phrase said to us. We’ve probably said it ourselves at some point too. And with good reason – it’s often true. Sometimes it is not until we have actually tried something in practice that we can truly know its complexities and challenges, and this week, I was faced with one of those challenges myself.
“So, what would be important to you if you were at the end of life?”
This was the question that I was asked in a training session last week. It was something I’d never considered before, which is surprising because it is my personal belief that death should not be a taboo subject, but a certainty that we address and plan ahead for. That said I had never reflected those views on myself. I panicked.
“Um, having my family around me?” I attempted, concerned I might be told this response was wrong.
“Yes, that’s a common one. Anything else?”
My brain went blank. I wasn’t sure. What could I decide? What options were open to me? I described them often to other people, but rarely had I ever turned the question on myself.
“No pain?” I said.
“Is there anything you want to add? It can be anything you like, anything that’s important to you?”
I shook my head, and the questions moved around the circle.
However, as my colleagues gave their responses, I realised not only how different the responses were but also how many choices there were to make.
One person wanted quiet, whilst another wanted music; one wanted to be surrounded by friends and family, similar to myself, whilst another would rather be left alone. Some aired spiritual preferences, whilst others specified the atmosphere of the place they would like to die; with the window open; with the blinds down; with candles lit; with photographs or flowers. Some people expressed the wish to die with dignity, grace or pride.
On the train home, I again asked myself what a good death would mean for me. Equipped with the thought of the many different preferences that others had indicated.
All this reminded me that we all need to be thinking about what we want and discussing these with others regularly to make sure they don’t get forgotten. In practice, it was much harder to make choices for myself than it was to talk about making them to others, so I was very glad to have started the process of thinking about it now, so that I can write down what I want and make sure those important to me know about my wishes.