Monday night we had another successful Death Café in Evanston, Illinois. Nearly 50 people joined us for coffee, tea, cookies and muffins while we talked about issues surrounding death and dying.
We broke up into four groups, each led by a facilitator, for an hour. The conversations were wide-ranging and passionate. My group included people of various religions and no religion; male and female; college-age through retirement. No one was required to share, but most had feelings they wanted to express. Honestly, we could’ve talked for hours.
At one point, in discussing our own final wishes, we focused on burial vs. cremation, and, in the latter case, how to dispose of the ashes. Fears of being caught spreading ashes in a place that’s restricted were assuaged by offers to help do the deed.
One woman expressed a concern that I believe was on the minds of many there: what happens if your family is all gone? How do you make your final wishes known when you’re the last of your family?
So I thought that was a good situation to share here today. Maybe you know someone – maybe elderly, maybe not – who has no close relatives. Maybe they are, like this woman, the last of their family. Maybe that describes you.
You may not have a will. You may not have designated someone your medical power of attorney. You may not want to think about it at all. That means “Five Wishes” is for you.
The Five Wishes are:
· Who you want to make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them.
· The kind of medical treatment you want or don’t want.
· How comfortable you want to be.
· How you want people to treat you.
· What you want your loved ones to know.
Now is the time, while you’re healthy and able to make these decisions for yourself. No family? Ask your friends. Again, it’s an uncomfortable conversation for many people. But one that will avoid all kinds of complications down the line.
For more information on the Five Wishes document (which meets legal requirements in 42 states), check the Aging with Dignity website.
And have some fun, too. Your funeral will be your last chance to make your friends laugh.