You have just hung up the telephone from a call with the doctor who said;
“Even with some aggressive and painful treatment your loved one may only have a couple of months to live.”
Stunned you sit in silence. You cry most of the night, have a hot Epsom salt bath and fall into bed and sleep soundly exhausted by grief’s full expression. Awaking in the morning from what seemed like a bad dream, you give yourself a shake, have a shower and sit down to face the stark reality that mother is dying – she has two months to live at best.
Thoughts run wildly through your head as you scribble notes to yourself on your favourite writing pad;
Dad’s in denial, always has been.
Mom doesn’t want to talk about it.
My brothers and sisters are confused and scared.
Where does Mom want to die? Does she want to fight to the bitter end? Or does she want to go gracefully?
Who do I call for help? What help do I need?
On my God funeral arrangements.
As the reality sets in it becomes obvious that you will be the family quarterback that facilitates Mom’s end of life. A bit overwhelmed yet knowing you are the right person to handle this important family function you begin to create an action plan for your family.
- Pick a time and day for a family meeting. In person is best and Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom will do in a pinch.
- Make a list of key points to discuss with the entire family.
- Look into funeral arrangements – Are there any existing already? Cremation or burial?
- Is there an existing will? What about the bank accounts and life insurance?
- What paper work needs to be prepared?
- Begin a rough list of family events and gatherings that would create a great good-bye journey.
- Start the rough plans for your Mom’s celebration of life.
- I know I am going to need help in all of this. Who can I call for support and expertise in all of this?
Whew, a lot to handle it seems and you have just begun to consider all the details necessary to ensure that Mom has a graceful and loving death. Key points to discuss with your family, hmmm.
Key Points to Talk About
- Mom is the one dying so what does she want? Where does she want to die? Does she want to fight for her life or let go and allow the terminal disease run its course? Does she want to die alone or with family?
- Dad wow, what are his needs? And if different than Mom’s how can we get them on the same page?
- My brothers and sisters they too have some input and if it is different than Mom’s wishes how do we negotiate the differences?
- How do we involve the grand children?
- How and when do we let friends and neighbors know?
- When do we talk with the doctor about Mom’s prognosis?
- If Mom wants to die at home how do we do it?
And so it begins. This short story if a true one and these are the step the ‘family quarterback is taking. The initial lists are of course not complete as they are starting points and will be filled in more depth as conversation talk place and clarity is brought to bear on Mom’s exact medical condition. The starting points though are important though and give the family important issues to look at, discuss and come to agreement on.
Remember too there everyone has a right to contribute their input and at some point the Mom or the Mom and Dad will have final say in the plan. At this point it is best that everyone hop on the same page, putting difference aside and creating the dying and death process that Mom and Dad want.
I would suggest a family note binder in which all this information can be collected and from which to do lists can be prepared and believe me there is a lot to do! Most importantly just begin, start the chats, make the calls and get the ball rolling.
In cases like this there is precious little time to waste so get the planning done and then spend as much time as a family doing the things that will have Mom die well and family and friends say good-bye with fullness, grace, authenticity and love.