(Continued from Part VI: Advance Directives: Mine.)
Editor’s note: Today, I decided to just write a quick post and publish it without proof reading. It may be the only way to save it from the fate of the other three posts I wrote this week. (Overwritten, nitpicked, and abandoned.) Please forgive all the errors.
In the last post I tried not to reveal too much about the hubster’s choices out of respect for his privacy, but since then he’s let me know he’s okay with it if I do. I’m grateful because it’ll be easier this way. Each time we’ve sat down together it’s become more apparent that, while each of us is trying to define our own individual wishes, this process is ultimately ALL about relationships. We don’t live in a vacuum and evidently we won’t be dying in one either. If we don’t make the effort now to discuss this with everyone else who absolutely will be involved if either of us dies in the next few years, then it may not mean shit how brilliantly we write it down.
Getting this paperwork completed and filed is only the first step. I may have declared February our Advance Directive Month, but 2012 is evidently going to be the Year of our Advance Directives, too. I foresee a lot of conversations about dying in our future.
And that is, by far and above, the scariest part of this whole thing for me. As anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while knows, I’m not particularly afraid of facing death. What I am very afraid of is asking other people, in person, to leap across the abyss and face it with me.
Talking about dying is just so very, very taboo and I’ve already put people off with it so many times before. It’s one thing to chat about it here on the blog, but it’s something else entirely to look directly into another person’s horrified eyes and say Hey! Ya wanna come over and talk about plugs and when to pull ’em?
I did make the leap last night though, with Beloved Daughter. She came over so we could watch the final episode of Downton Abbey together and before we sat down I tentatively asked if she’d be willing to fill out an advance directive with me or, if not, at least let me know what she’d want in a worst case scenario.
Her response totally surprised me. She was not only willing, she was actually enthusiastic about it. She even started telling me a couple thoughts she’d already had about it and she’s only twenty-five years old. I was so relieved.
Maybe that first leap is going to be the hardest part.
A couple of specific items we discussed this weekend:
1) Alternate medical proxies…just in case we’re in a car crash together and can’t serve as each others. We both picked friends instead of family members. (We haven’t actually asked them yet though.) I had a couple of reasons. My friend is a nurse who’s also into holistic healing and we share a similar preference for minimal medical intervention. She’ll be more able than most to successfully bridge the gaping divide between the two systems. I also didn’t want to burden either of the kids with having to make those choices. They’ll be going through enough. For the hubster, it was a toss up between his friend and his doctor-brother. The friend won because he lives in here in town and proximity trumped professional skills.
2) No surprise: Idaho’s statutes concerning end of life choices are extremely conservative. Sigh. Evidently, it can be a challenge here to decline things like blood transfusions and antibiotics because they’re not considered “life sustaining” treatments like artificial nutrition and hydration are. The hubster and I could be 200 years old, paralyzed, and lost in dementia, and the law would still require that we’re treated for pneumonia.
We’ll have to write specific requests in our advance directives stating that we would absolutely want to have all such treatments withheld, and then also make sure we discuss it with our doctor to find out if he’s okay with it. Honestly? I don’t think it’ll be a problem as long as we do our footwork now. The laws err on the side of caution but from my experience working with hospice, common sense tends to prevail in real life. Medical professionals involved with end-of-life care tend to be very respectful of individual wishes.
That’s it for now. It’s hard to stop because there’s so much we’re talking about and learning that I could write five posts a day and not cover it all. I started this journey thinking an advance directive was just a set of forms we’d fill out and give to a couple of people, and then we’d be done. However, I’ve discovered that they’re really (surprise, surprise!) about our life and the people we love. I don’t know why it surprised me. I’ve known along that dying is all about life, too, and that including it in my life now, long before I die, makes everything I experience richer and scarier and more adventurous and full. Why should advance directives be anything different? I mean, really?
The hubster and I will actually fill out the forms this weekend. We need to check with our friends to make sure they’re okay to be our medical proxies before actually filing them with the online registry. I’m not sure we’ll finish by the 29th (leap year!) but if not it’ll be in the week following.
copyright Dia Osborn 2011