Musings... On End of Life Care.
This morning will be my last Musings for approximately thirteen weeks as I begin a three-month sabbatical following our Sunday Gathering on April 29th. I hope what I offer below is helpful in some way to someone as these words have been forming within me for the past year or more – and rose to the surface again a few weeks ago as I was in conversation with an individual who was trying to write down their wishes for a power of attorney and in another conversation with an individual who was near death.
Let me begin with a poem – I am not sure who wrote it (maybe this is an adaptation of a poem written by Bernadette Noel)… it appeared in my Facebook feed and I immediately saved it… and it seems like a good place to start:
I want to age like sea glass.
Smoothed by tides but not broken.
I want my hard edges to soften.
I want to ride the waves
and go with the flow.
I want to catch a wave
and let it carry me to where I belong.
I want to be picked up
and held gently by those who delight in my
well earned patina and
appreciate the changes I went
through to achieve that beauty.
I want to enjoy the journey
and always remember that if
you give the ocean something
breakable it will turn it into
I want to age like sea glass.
The topic, if you’ve not already figured it out, is end of life care – and let me be clear – these are my reflections. This is a loose expression of my wishes and desires – and by no means do I expect these to fit you. We live individual lives and hold unique values and as such, our desires and wishes in respect to end-of-life care will be as unique as the lives we’ve lived.
However, there is one thing that I believe to be universal – and that is the need to share in conversation with loved ones, our wishes, and desires, and to ensure that you have named (in New Brunswick) an Enduring Power of Attorney who will be responsible for decisions in respect to your health. should you be unable to make those decisions for yourself.
As for me, I want to live. I want to live and be surrounded by the vitality and laugher of friends and family; my children, and their partners, and their children (should they choose to have any) and their cats and dogs and other pets. I want to live to hear the stories of the things and I can no longer do and be open to share what wisdom I may have. I want to continue to gather around tables and share food and drink and meaningful conversation – and at the end of each day, I hope to be embraced in arms of love.
I want to live – a quality of life – quality that is achieved in moments that matter – not in the number of moments. I don’t want to be a burden. I’d rather be a memory – held tenderly in love.
For all these reasons, when my body is struggling to draw breath or pump blood, when the diagnosis is terminal, or when my mind is no longer in concert with the person I’ve been known to be, might those who love me, let me go.
Save the extraordinary measures for those who have not known love, held a new child and given thanks for the gift of life. Use the medical miracles for those who still have opportunity to enjoy all that has made my life so full and rich.
Expressed more technically, it is my wish, that those responsible for my care, make decisions based on what they know to my desire for quality of life – specifically, if I am incapacitated, please do not take any extraordinary medical measures to sustain or revive my life unless there is a greater than 60% chance that such intervention will assist in recovery to a quality of life that you know to be important to me.
There are many resources out there that can assist in providing specific directives in respect to life support, tube feeding, CPR, persistent unconsciousness, mental impairment and so on… If you’d like a list of such resources email me and I can point you in the right direction. But, as I stated at the beginning, even more important than written directives is a conversation with those you love and ensuring that you have appointed an Enduring Power of Attorney and have a will.
As for me, I will trust those who love me to make the loving decision – and yes, I know this places a burden on them – but such is love – love that has held me tenderly, gently worn me smooth and beautiful in memory.
The Week Ahead
Today I am attending the Renew 2023 Conference from the comfort of home and later this afternoon I will engage in a couple of visits at the hospital and a pastoral visit.
Tuesday morning, I will meet with the Lectionary Study Group for the last time before my sabbath time (using Heather’s language) where we will ponder the texts for this coming Sunday – the Fourth Sunday of Easter marked as Good Shepherd Sunday because the readings include the 23rd Psalm and John 10:1-10. How many of you remember the first sermon I preached among you on these texts? Perhaps I’ll use it again! On Tuesday afternoon I will head to Halifax where I’ll spend the night with Justin and Emily.
On Wednesday morning I will make my way to the Atlantic School of Theology where I will take part in the quarterly meeting of the Academic Senate which I sit on as a representative of Fundy St. Lawrence Dawning Waters Regional Council. After the meeting I will spend some time browsing in the library before heading toward home.
Thursday morning will be devoted to crafting a liturgy and reflection for Sunday (unless I choose to use one from years gone by) and in the afternoon I’ll be in the office looking after any last minute details with Jennie before my absence. We'll end our afternoon of work at Ducky’s at about 4PM if anyone else would like to join us!
Friday and Saturday will be days off and after the gathering on Sunday morning I will be off… and yes, I am excited!!