By Nancy Merrill and Trip Hart
Four articles by Honor My Wishes (HMW) will focus on the stewardship of planning for end of life and highlights the HMW personal planning guidebook. The HMW guidebook is available on our website. Difficult conversations are easier to deal with while we are healthy, before the need to address them is forced by circumstances. HMW, a local non-profit organization, has been providing education since 2002 on preparing medical directives (Dignity) organizing legal and financial information (Security), and recording funeral or final arrangement wishes (Peace) through offering our comprehensive planning guidebook. Our hope is to motivate all adults in our state to get on the right track and determine what their wishes are and have them honored. Take this opportunity make end of life issues a part of our normal conversation.
In 2005, the court ordered removal of Terri Schiavo’s artificial feeding tube that had sustained her persistent vegetative state for 15 years. Her death generated bitter disagreements over her care and became a national religious, political and ethical debate. No one will ever know what Terri’s wishes would have been had she been able to voice them. However, it’s hard to imagine that she would have chosen to become the poster child for both sides of a debate spectrum regarding end of life.
Dignity: No one wants to become the next Schiavo case. Whether you disagree or support the courts’ decisions, few people would choose to have their family fighting over their care, or the courts and Congress becoming involved. So how do we have the conversations and make the necessary plans to ensure our personal values and wishes are honored? The Dignity section of the HMW guidebook and the second article explore the best way to avoid a Schiavo scenario.
Security: Likewise, few people would want to knowingly make it difficult for loved ones to manage their legal and financial affairs in the event of an untimely death. Least of all, none of us relishes the thought of family fighting over our personal property. How can we rest secure in the knowledge we’ve done our best to reduce conflict? Our third article highlights how the value of certain legal documents and organizing financial information demonstrates you care about your family and survivors.
Peace: Are you the treasure-keeper of handed down family history and stories that could be lost when you die? What preferences do you have for what you want done with your body after death – cremation or body burial, a prestigious send-off with a fine casket, or perhaps a homemade one or even none at all? The last article in the series challenges concepts of how you might handle your final affairs.
Honor: My Wishes is a non-profit organization staffed entirely by volunteers. Our vision is Dignity, Security and Peace at Life’s End, and our mission is to educate all adults about the need to plan for this eventuality. Our HMW guidebooks are available through our website – donations are encouraged and appreciated.
In 2008, my husband became critically ill following surgeries. After 4 long unresponsive months on a ventilator, I was faced with the very real and difficult decision of whether to continue life support. Luckily for me, having been active in Honor My Wishes for several years, we had talked about end of life issues. Several years earlier we both had our Advance Directives filled out, signed and witnessed. Quality of life, not quantity, was important to him. Though the decision was difficult and painful, discontinuing life support was the right decision.
Nancy (McCormack) Wik