Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mortality Preparation

I'm at an interesting place.
Thinking about mortality, and how one prepares for the unavoidable, death...
end of life...
Many people can't even talk about death, let alone think about or plan.
But, sometimes we are put in a situation where we must. Maybe about ones own death, or about a loved ones.

Have you ever had a pet that was getting old, slowing down, and you knew, time was short? As a good pet owner, you take your pet to the vet, get the medications they need, and do everything we can to keep Fido or Fluffy comfortable.  As he declines, we have a choice. We have all been there. Those that really loved a pet. Having to make that decision. For us, it has always been a pretty clear line. As long as the pet, is eating, drinking, pottying, and purring. As long as he is happy and comfy, we hang on making "end of life", as bearable as possible.  Once suffering is involved, we go for the euthanasia option. We have done it all for our furry loves. Hand feeding, carrying, cleaning after, and loving as unconditionally as they have loved us. My oldie pets have gone blind, deaf, and had movement difficulties.  But, we tended their every need until they died.  Sometimes, choosing to euthanasia when they suffered.. Horrible hard place to be, but we try to be humane and do the right thing.

When the same is true with our loved human family and friends, it is a different story.
When we know one is suffering, so many of us handle it differently. While we pretty much all agree that bring on the drugs to reduce pain, but even that has many feeling differently.
When we know that death is upon us, what do we do?  What would you do?

Many people react with different feelings depending on if we are talking about our own death or our loved ones pending death.
I know that some are frightened and close up. They avoid the dying having difficult seeing that person, "that way". Others step in to nurturing mode, taking over every need they can handle and then some.

As a Hospice volunteer, I am getting a glimpse into the dying world at a different angle. I'm involved, but I'm not emotionally involved. {please don't misinterpret that, what I am referring to is the fact that I am not related or know the person, other than in this situation in which I have been trained to care for. I am still a very compassionate and nurturing volunteer}.

I see people take on incredible strength physically and ability. A tiny woman, somehow managing to lift, assist and care for a Husband twice her size. A man become a gentle expert at assisting with delicate matters with his Wife.

They keep going and never stop, until they crash.  I'm lucky enough to be able to step in and give a needed break or assist in some simple things we may not ever realize someone needed. The caretaker never ask for help.

In the caretakers task, as well as caring for their loved one, they have to take care of preparing for the death.  Funeral arrangements, wills, insurance.  A world of paperwork and task. The tiny woman, suddenly realizes she has nothing appropriate to wear to her Husband of 50 years funeral, as she has lost so much weight in caring for him.  The Husband caretaker, is trying to figure out how he will take care of the children without her. Their are so many things running through there heads, and they don't dare ask for help from the family member that can be near the dying because it upsets them so.

And then there is ourself.
What do we want?  We certainly don't want to be a "burden". Should we have a living will?  A "do not resuscitate" order? 
Will we be able to handle "knowing"?
Will we fear it?
Or will we embrace it?

I think I know how I will handle it. But until I am there, I really don't know. Every situation can be so different.

I do know, as I watch over my 18 year old cat struggling yet happily getting through each day. And as I watch patients in Hospice I volunteer with, it is something that I think about.
Something I respect.


Judy Miller said...

It is something we need to face. I had a co-worker who had cancer. He and his wife never talked about funeral arrangements or what to do. He did have some successful treatments, but eventually cancer won. At the funeral home, his wife said she hoped she was doing what he would have wanted. We all need to face making plans or at least what we would like known to our loved ones. It is difficult but necessary. Judy

Judy Miller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Judy Miller said...

It is something we need to face. I had a co-worker who had cancer. He and his wife never talked about funeral arrangements or what to do. He did have some successful treatments, but eventually cancer won. At the funeral home, his wife said she hoped she was doing what he would have wanted. We all need to face making plans or at least what we would like known to our loved ones. It is difficult but necessary. Judy

Scott said...

Jan, I have written an account of my mother's passing and how I felt, which I will post to my blog in exactly one week. That day will mark the one year anniversary of Mom's passing. I was never sure how I would deal with something like that, but it actually was a little easier than I had thought. I never believed I could agree to withholding nutrition from someone, but it seemed like the correct choice when Mom suddenly shut down and we knew the end was near. Had I thought for a moment it would add to her discomfort, I would not have agreed to it, but throughout those days, I never saw any evidence that it made her uncomfortable or that she wanted food of any kind. The hospice literature had helped us understand this period of "life" so it wasn't nearly as scarey. We had one or two weeks where we knew Mom was leaving us, and we were able to come together as a family and prepare ourselves.

For me, as much as I hated losing Mom, it was a relief. I had watched her fight through pain for years and years, and I had watched her fight valiantly to retain her mental faculties, even as dementia slowly stripped them away. To see her finally at rest and no longer fighting eased most of the pain of her loss. And we were also blessed by a fantastic staff at the funeral home. When we were allowed to see her, we saw that they had restored her beauty and dignity. Those who prepared her had given her back 10 years on her appearance. That, too helped make us feel more comfortable.

Speaking of funerals, the best thing my parents ever did was to preplan their funeral. They had chosen their caskets, their crypts, their burial location, the wording on the crypts and even some of the floral arrangements. There was practically no decisions we had to make at that moment when we were most stressed and emotional. What a gift to the family. I urge anyone who knows where they want to be buried, to do the same thing. You get the funeral you would want to have and the family does not have to argue or struggle with those decisions.

KPaine said...

Jan I see situations everyday because as you know I work in a funeral home. The best advice for me to give people out there is that making funeral arrangements ahead of time is the best answer, because when it is the time of need people in-generally are sad and worn out. Don't really know what to do or what the family wants or even what the deceased wanted. Even if you go into a funeral home and put info on file helps and that doesn't cost a thing. I have seen where young and old have past from car accidents to birth defects and just natural causes you name it. All I am saying to make it easy on your family in the long run do the unthinkable and make arrangements it will be a big burden lifted for many.........

Reality Jayne said...

Janis, That was a really good post. Well written and well thought out...You are right . Death is something that is going to happen and everyone should feel comfortable in confronting

Boho Farm and Home said...

Really good post and so true that we all don't want to face it--death is an ugly truth. It takes courage to look death in the face--whether for you or a loved one. it brings up the big questions in life...why and I here? What is my purpose? What happens when I die? But, facing the reality of death and looking at these questions make our lives richer, deeper and sweeter. xo Caroline

Linda said...

Yes, each experience is so uniquely different and personal. I've always been one to think about death, even when I was little because life itself is such a great mystery. But I don't really think about it much from the planning aspect. Even my parents, who have all of their forms in order, we just don't talk about it much because I know that God will help us through it when the time comes. And so I personally tend to leave it at that.

It's not something I can fully grasp. Sometimes in the moments before I fall asleep, I will think about death and I panic. What if I don't wake up. I'm more afraid of the letting go aspect of it than anything and it makes me feel claustrophobic and I get all short of breath when I think about it. So then I have to pray to clear my mind of it and I drift off to sleep.

I hope that's how it will be when I go.

Charla @ Healthy Home Blog said...

I was with my mother when she passed away 11 years ago, and I'm so glad I was with her.
Scott is right about how wonderful it is for the family to have a pre-arranged funeral.

Mark Pressley said...

I have delt with this topic to many times it is always diffrent and always hard.

As for me I told Nancy to put me in a hefty bag set me to the curb and throw one hell of a party,, No tears alowed!

Julie Harward said...

I am sis has just been told that she is full of cancer, not long to live. I hate cancer, this will be my 3rd sibling to go this way. What you do is amazing, we are there.


In the service, death comes in many forms and from many directions, rarely expected, rarely welcome. It comes on clear blue sky day when an airplane just doesn't come back; it comes on the flight deck with burning fuel and screeching metal and terrifying explosions. It comes over hostile lands with shots fired in anger. It comes in a Sailor's apartment, a Sailor alone and confusion and holding a gun.

I attended a memorial service just this Thursday. Again. As I sat in the chapel in uniform, I thought about how many times I had been to such services, and how many others I knew about but couldn't attend because of deployment. I thought about the high price of service, even in peacetime, even away from combat. I thought about the faces of those now gone. I thought about how in the minds of the living, the departed will never age, never grow old.

My relationship with death is not accepting nor friendly; I would say it is pragmatic. Death comes. The living mourn, and cope. Then life continues. We must make the best of it for whatever time we have been given. We must be able to smile with a sense of satisfaction that life was worthwhile, when our time comes.

bj said...

I think we owe it to our spouse to talk about these things...the way they would want things handled. Mr. Sweet and I both have our final plans made and feel very secure in being able to do what the other would want.
xoxo bj

Bee Lady said...

Wow janis what a great post. I think you are right. We don't know how we will deal with it until we are there.

And if anyone knows you, they would never misinterpret your comment. I don't think you could be anything but compassionate. It takes a compassionate, caring person to do Hospice work. I was around when my Aunt needed Hospice. Amazing people.

Cindy Bee