End of Life

This is probably going to be the darkest blog post I write and it deals with a topic we ALL want to avoid talking about – death. Even for the blog post title, I debated between variations of “End of the Road” but then I thought people might confuse it with the song from Boyz II Men. So I decided to stick with the most direct title knowing how uncomfortable it is.

We make plans for everything in life but the one thing that everyone will face – death, is something that no one plans for. Yes, people do make their wills but that mainly deals with their financial assets and how they should be tended to and distributed. But, what about a situation that leaves you comatose or bedridden for years? You are technically living, but not living life. Then what?

Having those End of Life discussions with family members is required so that everyone involved is on the same page. This past summer my sister and I had a discussion with our parents on what to do in those situations. How do you start those conversations? Luckily, my sister found a document/checklist that really helped us get the conversation going and walked us through the delicate topics to discuss. The PDF document is from Kaiser Permanente, click to download. I have also uploaded the same document to my blog in case they remove it.

After going through this exercise with my parents it was clear it’s like a McKinsey management consulting report. Will we be able to implement what they want? For example, both my parents have said if they are unable to do the daily things in life that give them joy then they would like to invoke their religious right to the Jain tradition of Sallekhana/Santhara. Santhara is the practice of voluntarily fasting to death by gradually reducing the intake of food and liquids. It’s so easy to write that down in a document but I’m not sure how that will play out in real life. Will I be able to tell the nurse that they should not feed the person that has fed me my whole life?

Anyways, this was an exercise I’m glad we did with my parents and it’s something I would highly recommend to anyone else. It also gives you perspective on your own life and how you want to plan for your End of Life advance directives.

As my grandfather said, “with birth, death comes…celebrate both.”

1 Comment

  1. Read the book MRITYU MAHOTSAVA, “The Happy Death Festival” For a further understanding of the mindset of Santhara. It’s available in English translation, and you could probably find it on the Jain E-library website. (It’s relatively short). There’s lots to contemplate in there.

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