A Wise Death

IMG_3384“Have a conversation with your family about your end-of-life wishes while you are healthy. No one wants to have that discussion… but if you do, you’ll be giving your loved ones a tremendous gift, since they won’t have to guess what your wishes would have been, and it takes the onus of responsibility off of them.” ~Jodi Picoult

As I approach becoming an elder, and as my friends and loved ones begin to immerse in their dying journeys, I have come to contemplate how to have a wise death, what my values are around this transition, and how to make my wishes known well ahead of time.  As I thought about this, I decided I wanted to learn more for myself and to be of service to my friends, family and community as an End of Life Doula (EOLD). In May of 2020, I earned my EOLD certificate from the University of Vermont School of Medicine. This study has immersed me in the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of the death and dying process.

End-of-Life Doulas complement the care provided by family members and friends, as well as chidago paintbrush smallermedical, palliative, and hospice professionals, within the settings of hospitals, senior care facilities, and homes. EOL Doulas support clients with individualized, compassionate care in a number of ways, including emotional, spiritual, informational, and physical support, which greatly helps to lower stress levels, aid in comfort, and promote personalized, even positive, dying passages for clients and their loved ones. UVM

My focus as an EOL Doula is informed by my University of Vermont studies and the Zhineng Qigong and Q’ero Medicine lineages I am trained in and practice. All of the offerings are available online only during the pandemic.

  • Wise Death & Dying Planning, including a conversation about values and wishes for the dying process. You don’t need to be near the end of life to plan. See link to Death Over Dinner in resources below.
  • Legacy Projects and Dignity Therapy conversations–Offering a simple legacy conversation with you, recorded and transcribed if desired as a keepsake for you, family and friends*. Other legacy projects may include coordinating artwork, memory books, letters or journals for loved ones, family recipe cookbook, scrapbook, audio/video for memorial service—depending on your desires.
  • Holding Space, Listening, Planning and Sitting in Sacred Vigil–we will work together to create a plan that surrounds your nearing death journey with things that are sacred to you.
  • Aya Despacho Ceremony–Indigenous Andean ceremony that celebrates the life of someone who is in the process of, or who already has, departed, and helps to bring energetic closure.
  • Comprehensive Local Resources/Directory for all aspects of the death and dying process including local specialists, complementary healing practitioners, and the lesser known green burial and home funeral info.

Contact me for more information regarding scheduling, costs, etc.


*Sample questions for our Dignity Therapy conversation:

  • “Tell me a little about your life history, particularly the parts that you either remember most, or think are the most important. When did you feel most alive?”
  • “Are there specific things that you would want your family to know about you, and are there particular things you would want them to remember?”
  • “What are the most important roles you have played in life (family roles, vocational roles, community service roles, etc.)? Why were they so important to you, and what do you think you accomplished in those roles?”
  • “What are your most important accomplishments, and what do you feel most proud of?”
  • “Are there particular things that you feel still need to be said to your loved ones, or things that you would want to take the time to say once again?”
  • “What are your hopes and dreams for your loved ones?”
  • “What have you learned about life that you would want to pass along to others? What advice or words of guidance would you wish to pass along to your (son, daughter, husband, wife, parents, others)?”
  • “Are there words or perhaps even instructions you would like to offer your family to help prepare them for the future?”
  • “In creating this permanent record, are there other things that you would like included?”

From the Journal of the American Medical Association.


Resources

Advance Directive Form for California (from Stanford University)
Advance Directive and Dementia  Thought provoking discussion, an excerpt from “The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life,” by Katy Butler.
Advance Directive for Conscious Dying  Next step for those wishing to embrace dying as a spiritual passage for themselves and for their loved ones. It is not meant to be a legal or medical document.

The Letter Project (Stanford University)–The Letter Project is intended to help people from various backgrounds write a simple letter to their doctor and their loved ones about their values and life goals, what matters most and who matters most. This site also includes templates for advanced directives, life review, and bucket list explorations.

The Conversation Project.  92% of people say that talking to their loved ones about end of life care is important. 32% have actually done so. These online templates will get you started.
Death Over Dinner.  An interactive adventure that transforms a difficult subject into one of insight and empowerment.

Interfaith Ceremonies for Death at a Distance, especially developed for these pandemic times by online seminarians in the Iliff School of Theology’s Journey Program.

Dying is not as bad as you think—beautiful, comforting, 4 minute talk by a Palliative care MD re the dying process

Book: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. Atul Gawande

Podcast: The Art of Dying Well