My Life Conversations: How Do I Start?

We continue our story about Maya, a 66 year old women grieving the death of her parents within six months of each other. Cousin Rita helps Maya begin an End-of-Life plan by offering some questions to ask herself, conversations she may want to have with family, and information she’ll need to gather to make her best, final decisions.
They say the hardest part of doing anything is getting started.

It’s natural then that it seems strange to plan for my End-of-Life. I don’t feel old or ill. I’m energetic and still feel young. After focusing for so long on my children who are now adults, thinking about my own needs as I get older is going to take some getting use to.

Rita and I chose a coffee show we both loved and would feel relaxed. We agreed to use this time to reconnect as friends as well as cousins. She reassured me that I could do this End-of-Life planning “thing.” “Feeling overwhelmed is natural Maya,” she said. She reminded me that I’d planned every important event in my life, like my career, my kids’ school schedules, holidays, vacations and my retirement. I am accepting that End-of-Life is an important life passage that needs a plan too.

The obvious starting point was to ask the question, “What is an End-of-Life plan?” Rita explained, “You’ll decide your wishes for your final healthcare and comfort, funeral services and how assets will be shared. Your plan will include some important documents that you will want to share with loved ones who will carry out your final wishes. It’s a process and as we go through it, it will become more clear what you need to think about and do.”

It sounded good yet still seemed a lot to take in. We agreed that like any big job we’d break it down into smaller pieces to manage a step at a time.

Rita suggested I start by thinking about my personal preferences about End-of-Life care, treatment and living arrangements. For example, “Are there any treatments or procedures that you want or don’t want if you become seriously ill?” she asked. Do you have thoughts on hospice? “Do you want life-sustaining treatment?

We spent time talking about what hospice care meant for people facing End-of-Life. We discussed options like where I’d want to live if I became terminally ill – at home, a family member’s home, a facility or a hospital? I tried to imagine what Mom and Dad experienced toward their End-of-Life and knew I’d want to be at home with hospice care and with my family near.

We discussed other choices I’d need to make, like whom I’d choose to make medical or financial decisions for me if I become unable to speak for myself. Other questions about whether I want to become an organ donor and to whom I want to leave personal assets? We even talked about how I might personalize my final services to be a reflection of my personality and values. I instinctively knew I’d want a Celebration of Life, perhaps with an ocean theme, and to be cremated with my ashes scattered over my favorite beach.

As we talked, I realized that I really did have more control than I thought. One of the benefits of “older” age was that I knew certain things about myself and felt clear about what I wanted and didn’t want.

Since part of my motivation for developing an End-of-Life plan was to bring my family comfort after I pass away, Rita suggested I ask for their input. This seemed like it would be tougher than just considering my own ideas. “No one wants to talk about death,” I reminded Rita. She told me that there are great benefits to starting a conversation with my loved ones and that it may further help me as I created my End-of-Life plan.

Finally, Rita suggested that I begin to research and gather information about final living arrangements like long term care or nursing home care; comfort needs and funeral service options. Later, I’d need to complete legal forms and organize my finances. Wait. Did she mention “legal forms” and “finances”? I felt nervous again. Did I have to hire a lawyer? What if I changed my mind about my decisions? What if I couldn’t afford to pay for my End-of-Life?

Rita said there would be time for all of my questions when we met next week. Visit: to discover Maya’s next steps.

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