I went to a Quaker school in Philadelphia, and the Friends taught me about “having a concern.” I have a concern that all too often end-of-life decisions are not made or put off until the end of life.
As parents we planned and saved for our children’s college education. When the retirement age approached, we planned for financial and housing situations. Yet only 1 in 5 Americans plans for end-of-life issues.
As Carrie Madren writes, “End-of-life conversations can stir up a range of emotions from relief to fear.”1 Talking about these grave matters remains the “elephant in the room.” Older people often ignore it, and adult children are in denial and shun any talk of it. Many are like the woman who said to her husband, “I don’t care which one of us dies first, I’m going to Florida!”
I realize talking about end-of-life issues is a scary subject, a topic so volatile and threatening that people avoid it. However, it’s much better to talk about it in the light of day rather than in the heat of the moment. The sad reality is that even when older people have advance directives, their families often disregard their wishes and opt for “heroic measures” to keep their loved ones alive when there is no quality of life. It is time to end this conspiracy of silence and talk openly about these matters.
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12, NIV).
In my next post, I will suggest two places to start this neglected conversation.
1. Carrie Madren, “The Talk You Have to Have,” page 37, Interpreter magazine, May–June 2014.This article originally appeared on Richard Morgan’s blog “View from 80” (posted July 28, 2014) at http://richardmorgandr.wordpress.com/. Morgan, a retired Presbyterian (USA) pastor, stays busy writing and serving as a hospice volunteer in pastoral care at the Redstone Highlands retirement community near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Morgan is the author of At the Edge of Life: Conversations When Death Is Near and many other books.