**Time for this post? Reading…3 minutes. Video…12 minutes. Thinking…up to you.
Now that I’ve started thinking about the ins and outs of dying, I find myself in conversations about what I’m learning and considering.
Last week, I had one of those conversations with a long-time friend. We discussed my developing ideas about donating my body to medical education and writing my own obituary. As we were wrapping up, Barb said, “Do you find it depressing, all this planning for dying?” That’s a fair question, especially given our cultural denial of death.
My answer: “Not at all.”
Getting things in order, taking responsibility for what happens in my life… that’s been my philosophy all along. Why stop now?
Rochelle Martin, the palliative care nurse speaking in last week’s blog, listed four action steps. The last was to choose in death what we value in life. So for me, it’s only natural to prepare for dying by learning what to expect and taking appropriate action as things evolve.
I also feel it’s important to maintain a sense of perspective. I can be overly serious when dealing with a weighty topic so I need to remind myself to lighten up at times. Author Lesley Hazleton is a role model for that. I don’t share all her viewpoints and opinions, but I do appreciate that she has thought deeply about dying and is able to express her ideas with humour.
In this TEDx talk, she makes the point that we need endings, and the most basic ending of all—our ability to die—is built into our biology, making our mortality a defining part of what it means to be human.
What we take for granted, what we think is so obvious that it couldn’t be any other way, is shaped largely by the cultural stories that surround us. Yet if we were to think through our assumptions about what is true, we might see things differently.
A common cultural assumption is that thinking about death can’t help but be depressing, Yet, as Lesley Hazleton points out, it’s the opposite scenario—living forever—that depresses her.
Questioning the conventional wisdom is the only way we will find out what is true for us. We may agree with the conventional wisdom—or we may not. We won’t know unless we think about it.
What do you take for granted about death and dying? What haven’t you taken time to think about?