Daily Connector | End of life | Michele Dicke

Joe Newman from Sarasota, Florida says that being 107 years old means you keep breathing every day.  In February, he was featured in the local newspaper for his vitality – noting that he was still driving his Mercedes hardtop convertible.


I’m not choosing to write about Joe, but thought his story might be a fun lead-in to something these past two months have really brought to the forefront of my life.  How prepared am I for what lies ahead?  And who am I?  

I admit to chafing a bit when told I was part of the “at-risk” group and needed to restrict my activities.  Honestly, I am fairly much a spring chicken compared to most of the population in my zip code!

But as a hospice volunteer and dear friend of many in their 80s and 90s, I began to look at my privilege to be active in a different light.  What would my insistence/impudence and determination to do what I want mean to their lives? 

I am part of a generation that set a new standard to oppose aging.  We want to be young and vibrant, so much so that many of us decline to truly plan for that time when all our power cannot stop the effects of aging. 

Over 30 years of caring for someone has taught me there are issues when we refuse to acknowledge that our life on earth has a finite point. Or that you don’t have to be old to reach that point.

A hospice volunteer told of sharing a special gift with her family.  She began talking with them on HER birthday every year, asking siblings and parents to consider how they would want to see their last days of life spent.  She asked them to ponder details that are important to them.  She keeps a file of everything they have shared, and updates them over the years as they encounter the passing of friends and family.  Some were upset with her.  Her dad took 2 years to talk with her about his thoughts. Please note:  She is saying to each one, “Who are you?  What do you value?  How can I extend love and support to you when your life changes?  What do I need to know to represent you well?”

Discussing end of life is not easy.  But the best time to start is now.  Written documents that appear on the scene in the hospital are empty and possibly useless if they don’t include significant repeated conversation with a loved one as you explain what has changed in your life and how that has impacted your wishes. 

I don’t know if it takes humility or maturity to prepare for our end times in a non-legal fashion.  I do know that those who have been open to sharing about it seem more peaceful.

Oh, and Joe Newman.  He no longer drives his Mercedes.  While his drivers’ license was good for another three years, the news story apparently caused someone to consider the wisdom of his freedom.