A necessary conversation: Why you should talk about your final wishes

Talking to close friends or family about final wishes can be a hard conversation. It means you have to face the reality of losing someone you love. Professionals who specialize in end of life care say the discussion is necessary, even beneficial, because they can help people create and fulfill goals.

A lot of times, final wishes come out in the form of a bucket list. Terminally ill patients working through each wish without the luxury of time on their side can get stressed or even distracted, but a woman with cancer said she’s doing it to make memories her family will have long after she’s gone.

On an ordinary, overcast Sunday afternoon, Norah Droney is learning everything she needs to know to accomplish something that, for her, will be extraordinary. From equalizing her ears to fitting goggles on her face, there’s nothing stopping Norah from scuba diving at Mermet Springs. She said, “I want to get this done before I go.”

At Lourdes Hospice, Community Relationship Manager Shannah Poindexter said she hears that a lot. “People are looking at death and dying differently.” Compassion comes along with creating a team to help people live the way they want while they can. “What we may think their goals need to encompass, which may be staying out of pain, or comfortable, or staying with their family… their goals may be totally different,” said Poindexter.

Working on a bucket list with friends and family can be an important part of their care. Poindexter said, “They’re positive experiences. We all need to talk about that.”

For Norah, a woman living with less time, the chance to scuba dive is the strength she needs to fight against the cancer in her colon, lymph nodes, and liver. She’s ready to scratch this item off the bucket list. Her brother, Fred, kept close as Norah got further away from the dock during the dive he helped plan. Norah said, “It just means so much to me that he would do to all this to make me happy.”

It was a mission, accomplished, though that’s not always the case for every patient. Poindexter said, “If we see something on there, we encourage them, because we want to reach toward these goals or these bucket list items. But, you have to be realistic, too. It’s okay if you don’t get to do this.”

Norah knows she may not get to finish her list, but that isn’t bringing her down. “I love being in the water,” she said. But, eventually, exhaustion took over and she went back to dry land with a little help after accomplishing a lot. For Fred, the memories made will last. He said, “There are things in your life you never forget. This is one of them.”

Norah said her bucket list gets longer every day, and that gives her the will to focus on what’s important. She said, “You gotta live! Don’t be afraid to live… and I always was, but I’m not anymore.” That’s because the only thing scarier than dying from cancer is living with fear.

If not a bucket list, Lourdes Hospice workers encourage everyone to at least have a living will whether they’re sick or not.

Norah’s doctors told her she would live two years with chemo, but she has chosen not to have treatment so that she’ll have the strength and energy to keep working on her bucket list.

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