A life dedicated to service...

Week 34: How’d you like to die?

I’ve raised this question before and here it is again. How ready can we be for something we don’t want to think about — in fact, are virtually incapable of imagining — an event that will occur with 100% certainty. Just the when and the how are in question. And very few people have the opportunity and, if you wish, the courage, to speak of either. So . . .

I’m hereby making known my wishes for the how of my parting. Not an easy thing to do, with countless what-ifs. That’s all they are, wishful thinking. But let’s assume the end comes with some advance notice — the diagnosis of an incurable disease, say, or a coming-apart due to an accident or general physical condition. Then, please, dear friends, allow me to spend time in a quiet place, near the sea or the woods, outdoors if possible, surrounded by as much peace as possible. Not a hospital bed, or in long-term care two-to-a-room, with overworked and underpaid care aids wiping my bum. Let there be music, and children, and Waldi, my sweet companion Hund.

Invite anyone willing to say such words as “dying” and “death” and “end” and look me in the eye. No speeches, no special cakesĀ (oops, correction: black forest cake with real Kirschwasser and cream, and Champagne or Port, the best). Being together once more — not just with me, but with each other. And someone from the monastery sangha, if at all possible, to chant the Heart Sutra.

In writing this I realize that specifics are impossible and unnecessary — my Medical Representatives and friends will know what to do. And, lest I fall into the traps of greed and ignorance, None Of The Above will do just as well.

Now over to you. How’d you like to be “seen out”? How do you wish to spend the last weeks, days, hours, even minutes of “your one wild and precious life”?* Please write a COMMENT and share your thoughts (anonymously if you wish). And talk to the people who need to know. This is one boat we’re all in together.

*From the last line in this poem by Mary Oliver.

About the Author
Peter lives in Victoria, BC, where he volunteers in health-care. teaches mindfulness meditation, and offers end-of-life care.
  1. Ellen Chapple Reply

    All of the Above, please, but wait! I don’t have ein Hund…Peter, would you be willing to lend Waldi to my living wake? Thank you for articulating such a simple and elegant answer to a question best asked well in advance.

  2. Mylene Reply

    You can be assured that I will do everything in my power to honor these.

  3. Fran Reply

    If at the time it’s possible to choose time and place, I’ll book some cottages on the sea by Tofino and host family and friends for a celebration of life. With stories and music and laughter and sound of the surf in my ears, followed by a quiet leavetaking, that’s how I’d like to go. If that’s too complicated then Memory and Imagination and a recording of pounding waves will serve, wherever. Let there be no weeping, only joy of the good times remembered.

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