In 1966, I was working in Washington, D.C. when I got the news that my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer, age fifty-seven. I called his doctor in Ohio. He emphatically said: “He’s got about five years IF he follows directions.”
Not once during those five long years did we ever ask:
- Had the doctor counseled him?
- What was he worried about?
- How could we help him?
- How did he feel about dying?
- Was there anything he wanted to say to us before he died?
- What kind of funeral did he want?
- How would we cope when he was gone?
Just a few weeks ago, at our March SOWER* assignment in Lake Placid, Florida, I met Heather, a first-time volunteer from Michigan. One day we found ourselves discussing our parent’s deaths. I blurted out “I wish I’d known about the book ON DEATH AND DYING (by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross) before my dad died. I’d have bought it for both of us, so we’d have had a platform to discuss what he was going through. Instead, I was mired in Denial, the first of The Five Stages of Grief identified in her research.”
Heather reflected on this, and with keen insight replied: “So that’s why you’re taking on the task of helping people learn about End of Life issues. You want to save them from what you went through.”
Yes! I met someone who “got it.” She understood what’s been driving my insatiable need to learn everything I could about End of Life issues, to share with other families.
Back in the seventies, CANCER was referred to as the “C word.” Some thought it was contagious and crossed the street to avoid making contact. The disease, and eventual outcome, was treated like the elephant in the room: everyone knew it was there, but no one would talk about it.
For more than forty years, I’ve born this sense of regret, because I hadn’t talked openly with my dad when I had the chance to be with him. Now, I’ve been trying to persuade my adult children to discuss these issues with me while we’re all still healthy.
What about you? Are elephants dwelling in your home? Interested in getting rid of them? There’s a lot of power in this word: CONVERSATION.
Check this out:
The Conversation Project — Ellen Goodman, Cofounder
The Conversation Project is dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care. We know that no guide and no single conversation can cover all the decisions that you and your family may face. What a conversation can do is provide a shared understanding of what matters most to you and your loved ones. This can make it easier to make decisions when the time comes. Created by The Conversation Project.
— ♥ —
*SOWER RV Ministry Servants On Wheels Ever Ready www.sowerministry.org