26 June 2014

Death does not follow your schedule

I've traveled a lot, sometimes rationalizing that it's better to travel now in case I should die before traveling at the "right time" later.

This post from my (dying) friend Connie puts that idea in context:
A recent issue of the Santa Cruz Good Times featured a very good article by Sven Davis titled “The End Is Coming – Look Busy!

Sven goes through the process of preparing some of the paperwork that helps get one’s affairs in order such as a will, a durable power of attorney, a healthcare directive. He discusses the considerations that go into preparing the forms and his own thought processes in making the choices that he does.

It is well worth reading.

In keeping with that theme, the “Local Talk” column, which records the answers to a question asked of various people in the community, featured the question:

“If you found out that you had one year to live, what would you do?”

So many people replied with answers varying on two themes: “I would travel” and “I would spend time with friends and family”.

Based on my own experience – in which I was told that I had 4 to 6 months to live – I can say this: When the doctor tells you that you have a year (or whatever period of time) to live, it does not mean that during that year everything will be fine and then at the end of the year you will suddenly keel over.

The reality will be more like this: “You have one year to live and during that time
  • you will have surgery the recovery from which will keep you bedridden for months, or
  • you will experience debilitating pain every day, or
  • you will have to take drugs (e.g. chemo, or morphine) which will have debilitating side effects, or
  • …some combination of the above three scenarios

In addition, if you are told that you have one year to live and you have not yet taken care of all the things that Sven Davis outlines in his article, you may want or need to spend a significant amount of your limited time just getting your affairs in order.

So if what you want to do before you die is travel – DO IT NOW.

Because by the time the doctor says you have a year to live, it may well be too late to travel.

And as to spending time with family and friends, one of the big surprises that awaits is that some of your family and friends may not want to spend time with you.

Some people are very caring and open in explaining their reasons – often due to having previously lost loved ones to prolonged illness. Other people will simply go silent. But if you are told that you have a terminal illness, some of your friends and family will most likely depart your life before you do.

And if one the people who steps away happens to be, for example, someone you’ve named as your Agent on your Advanced Healthcare Directive then you’ve got some re-thinking to do.

There is good news though. Other people who have previously been distant acquaintances will be open to stepping closer, and new friendships will blossom in unexpected ways.

But if what you want to do before you die is spend time with friends and family – DO IT NOW.

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