End of Life Matters

A Modest Proposal

end of life careThe purpose of this process is to give some guidance to the caregiver if called upon to help the dying loved one in temporal matters.

This particular process helps the voyager begin to release a bit from temporal matters and relations, by seeing them in a new light.  To get us started, we have included the traditional tool known as the Last Will and Testament.

The Last Will

It may be helpful to organize your thinking about the “last will” as consisting of several distinctive sections.

The Body

The most important “thing” that the person must deal with is the body. What would you like done with it after your use of it has come to an end? Would you like the body to be buried, cremated, frozen solid, launched into space, or some other equally interesting choice (stuff it and go on with the party is not really a practical choice)? Is there some favorite piece of jewelry, wedding ring for example, that you would ask to be buried with? Do you have an outfit picked out or a costume you wish to wear?

The exercise here is to be as specific as one can be. Write it down. You are giving instructions to someone other than yourself, which should be complete enough to help them carry out your suggestions. Be considerate of the family members that will be attempting to carry out your wishes.

Things, etc. . .

To start this process, it will be necessary to take a virtual (or actual) tour of your stuff. You will find that your things will fall into two or three categories:

  1. The first category, and by far the largest, is those things that have no specific importance to you, or to others close to you. These things serve only for purposes of utility. They may be mundane – pots and pans, clothes, beds, cars, etc. Let those staying behind, for the moment, know what to do. They can be instructed to give the stuff away, throw the stuff away, or ??? The point is, the voyager will decide.

  2. The next category is things that may have little or no importance to you, but may have a known value to friends and family – you can direct these as gifts to those people. This is your will in action.

  3. Some of our stuff is unique. It holds meaning in specific ways. It may be a tool that we have worked with intimately, or it may have been a gift from a person important to us. One example that will work for this group may be our altar items. These items may require thought. They may go to specific individuals who may be practiced in caring for such items. They may know how to “carry on the work” of the piece. There may be objects that have sentimental value – a gift from a mother or father – find why it is important, and you will know what to do with it.

Pets

This one is difficult. It seems to drive home the meaning and effects of terminus on those remaining behind for a while. For instance, you may have a pet turtle or anteater that you have grown close to over the years. Give it careful thought. In ancient Egypt, it wasn’t an issue  the pets went with the departed – along with the household staff. This may not work for you.

caregiving end of life care

The Testament (A Last Word)

This is a tough area. I have read many documents labeled the Last Will and Testament, only to find a full expression of the will of the person in disposing of their worldly goods. I have rarely seen a will, whereby the person drafting such a document actually gives a testament. We must be careful here. It is important not to drift into sentimentality. Hold the line and say what you actually would like to say.

Here are a few guideposts:

  • Preamble: Note that this process is not one whereby you are trying to educate or boast or prove anything whatsoever. This is your forum, your blank slate to speak. This is your party; you can do what you want to. The eventual reader may or may not like it, understand it, or even appreciate the results – the process of doing it is the goal.

  • Heroes: You may have had heroes that you would like to acknowledge. That hero may be living, long dead, or they only show up in novel or poem. The acknowledgement is for you, not the heroes – they are already heroes.

  • Complaints: Keep it short, but you may have a thing or two to say here. Pretend you are lodging your complaint with God – or worse yet, Raphael, or one of those guys.

  • Aphorisms – These are thoughts that wind up being in simple memorable phrases, like:

Believe nothing you hear, and only half of what you see. — Mark Twain

That which does not destroy us makes us stronger. — Friedrich Nietzsche

You may have several of these – you find that you live by them. Sometimes they are hard to find. Others, your friends, who hear them all the time, may be a good source for these.

  • Is there something that you would like to say to someone – but never could or did, or simply can’t imagine doing such? The person may be a wife, husband, daughter, son, parent, friend, boss/employer, enemy (see complaints above). Dig a bit on this one – give it your all – you are saying something about you, not them.

  • A well-lived life. There is a movie called Mi Familia – about a very poor Mexican family in L.A. They had many difficulties and trials. At the end, when all the kids were moved out, the father, a gardener, was sitting in the empty house with his wife and he says, “It’s been a good life.” She starts to comment, he stops her.

We came here – we chose this particular body, in this particular set of circumstances. We made our move, lived this life. Maybe you would like to say something about your well-lived life. This is NOT a comparison of any sort. Rather, it is a statement about your particular journey – a testament about you.

Caregiver Revolution :For families, loved ones and professionals who want to change caregiving into a positive, life affirming experience.

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