Many of us have a belief that there is something after our death, something called heaven. Or the afterlife. Or other names which I do not know.
Some others believe this is it and that death is the end. None of us will know with absolute certainty until we either enter another realm or we do not. Belief will get us to the end zone, but we won’t know for sure until we have the experience.
Part of health care should be the discussion with our providers as to how we wish our final days to be lived out. This discussion should begin when we are still young and healthy — “young” being a relative term. And it is not just for the doctor or institution that we need to start this conversation. It is for ourselves and our family.
End-of-life issues are still a taboo, as if by making a will or talking about hospice we make a death wish for the person or ourselves.
We need to acknowledge that the minute we enter this world, we are preparing to exit as well. For those of us who live past infancy — a rather modern concept due to better prenatal and better infant care, along with cleaner societies — there is an obligation to view the path of life honestly.
Life includes death and may well include the passing into a more spiritual existence once we shed this body.
We all love planning for the baby to come, the colors of the nursery, the games and books we will play and read, but we stop cold when it comes to our next “birth” into what is next. We should embrace it as best we can and plan for it.
Some of us have life-threatening, long-term illnesses that give us a heads-up. Some of us are thrown from a horse and die in an instant, but have no less time to plan if we can be honest about life’s trajectory.
Every minute of every day is filled with choice and planning. And by not planning for that trip, either we are left to folks who do not know us, or we burden our family with keeping us going at any cost because they are not sure and they are scared.
Granted, no one wants to leave this life unless you are unduly old and can't find a real reason the stay any longer. Or if you are really ill and/or in pain and only crave the release from a body now made into a prison.
And there, beside us, is our family, not knowing what to do for us if we have never talked our wishes through. They deserve better.
Your doctor deserves to know just how honestly you want him to talk with you at the end of life, because sometimes doing nothing is both the only answer and the best answer. Doctors should know how hard we wish to fight what may be a losing battle.
Hospice either at home or in a hospice house is where comfort and joy can be found. No mad rush to pull a last-minute rabbit out of the hat for a few more weeks of a dwindling life. Just comfort and support in moving forward.
I have had any number of friends and relatives who worked so hard to hold on to every scrap of time here but ended up with regret and a death in a hospital bed in bright lights and little, if any, peace for either them or their families.
I don’t know what sort of health care we are about to end up with, but if it doesn’t also support a peaceful death, I wonder what we are condemning ourselves and our families to. How much better to be either home or in a lovely and quiet place where friends and family can come and go at will, with a staff devoted to your peace and joy as you leave.
There is a poem I recall about sadly waving farewell as a ship leaves port, forgetting that others, on the other side, are waving hello.
If we frame our time of travel out with the same thoughtful preparation as our parents gave to bringing us in, we can choose to be fearless and directive and ready for what is to come.
Life ends. Best to have your travel plans in hand. We should go out as we came in — well planned for and well loved. Let’s see what the Senate gives us for this critical time.
Comfort. Let us insist on comfort.
Joyce Reehling lives in Pinehurst. She retired here from New York after a 33-year career in theater, TV and commercials.