From time to time, I hear people giving advice about how to talk with loved ones about end-of-life issues. It’s possible that my mother will live on for years, but her health seems to have declined a lot in the past year. I have this nagging feeling that I haven’t talked with my mother about what’s important to her — but I’m not sure how to ask the questions. I’m also wondering if there are things I’ll wish I had talked with her about once she’s gone.
— Future thinking
Barbara: You know, Mama, I also wonder about this. I know you are healthy now and probably have a lot more years to live, but is it okay to ask you about what you think about dying? It’s a really hard question to ask out loud.
Dearie: You know, sweetie, it’s not news to me that I will die someday—sooner than later. And remember, even though it was hard when Daddy died, it wasn’t totally unexpected. We learned a lot.
Barbara: I know but it’s still hard and I miss Daddy. Don’t you?
Dearie: Of course I do. You know, I would love to protect you from hurting, but you can’t deny that I’m near the end. Anything could happen. Do you remember when Grandma died? We hurt for a long time and then you learn to live with the memories. After Grandma died I realized I was getting older and one day I would die, too.
Barbara: Mama, I would love if you would write down some of your stories. What was it like for you growing up, being married, having children? Were you glad you worked all those years? Most of my friend’s mothers weren’t working. It was different for us. It would be a small bit of history.
Dearie: I know, I know. Writing my memories or tape recording me would be a good idea. But I’m not ready to do that. It’s fine to tell you about things when you ask.
Barbara: I like talking with you too, but if you wrote things down, then everyone could have it and it wouldn’t get lost. There are classes at senior centers about writing. Would you be interested?
Dearie: Not really. Too many other things to do!
Barbara: Then I guess you’re not really that close to the end of your life yet, Mama! But Mama, do you ever think of dying? What it would be like?
Dearie: No, not really. Not like that. But remember that time you asked me to talk with the doctor about how many tests or treatments I would want if I got very ill? Then I went to that lawyer and filled out all of those legal documents.
Barbara: That’s right, your Living Will. I’m glad you did that. But do you mind if sometime I ask you again about dying? I guess it never goes away. I love you.