At FOGcon, we learned about the Go Wish cards, which are a tool for figuring out your concerns and wishes in planning for the end of life. Having learned by caring for my father in his last years how important it is for people to communicate their desires and concerns before they become unable to do so, I am a strong believer in having these discussions with family and friends along with making advance directives and doing other planning.
After all, no one gets out of here alive. Giving those who will be making decisions for you some reasonable guidelines makes it a lot easier for them to do the hard things that can come with caring for someone with a terminal illness. It can also ensure that you have the best possible end of life. You can’t choose what you die from, but you can make some choices about how you’re cared for. The cards are a tool that help you do that.
One of the things that really struck me while doing the cards was how very much I don’t want some pastor or other religious person coming around inflicting their religion on me. I don’t believe in any form of god and or after life and I don’t want to deal with someone trying to convert me as I’m dying.
I can’t imagine anything closer to hell than being stuck in a bed, unable to leave the room, perhaps even unable to tell someone to leave, and have to listen to them tell me all about their god’s plan.
This reaction is likely so strong because I grew up in the Bible Belt and learned early on how to be polite in the face of other people’s religion, even when they were trying to “save” me. But I figure that when I’m sick and dying, I shouldn’t have to be polite about such things.
This is not to say that I wouldn’t want some sort of counselor to come by and provide me with spiritual comfort, only that I don’t want such comfort phrased in terms of heaven and prayer and eternal life. A psychologist or a Zen teacher might be good, and I know that there are pastors and chaplains from traditional religions who are very good at providing comfort without pushing their views.
Feeling this way makes it important that I plan in advance in case I do need nursing care. It would certainly be best to avoid facilities run by religious groups with which I have strong disagreements. I know I want to avoid being in a Roman Catholic hospital or nursing home, since I don’t trust them to honor do not resuscitate orders.
Unfortunately, far too many of our hospitals in the U.S. are tied to the Catholic Church. They’ve been buying them up left and right. And many assisted living facilities and nursing homes are owned by religious groups.
A place run by Friends or Unitarians is likely to be OK, though I’d really like something secular that isn’t tied to any one religion or culture. It would be nice to have some intellectual stimulation as well, assuming that I’m not dying of dementia.
A place with pets, especially dogs and cats, would be nice. My father would have liked to have horses, but I suspect that’s not practical. (He did, at least, get to watch deer a lot. That was important to him.)
I also care about good meals. That may be even harder to get than no proselytizing. I want lots of whole grains and fruit and fresh vegetables cooked properly. I like treats, too (ice cream!), and I certainly don’t want a place that doesn’t have alcohol. But for regular meals I want a lot of hippie health food.
I don’t think I want to live in a hippie-run nursing home, though. I know too many people who got stuck in about 1967 and they get on my nerves, too. I keep changing as I get older and I hope I’m going to still be changing and growing on my death bed.
What else is life about except finding out new things and learning from them? And I hope to be alive until the very last minute.