No Proselytizing Zone

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.

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No Proselytizing Zone — 12 Comments

      • The problem is, I want the place to be run and managed by people who are knowledgeable about the medical and legal issues that the constituency faces. I do not want to spend my declining years worrying about whether there’s enough ice cream, or if Zelda in apartment 22 is really sharp enough to remember to turn the gas off on her stove after making a pot of tea. I’ve seen the way a well-managed CCRC runs, and it’s complex. I’ve done a lot of complex in my life; I’ve even enjoyed it. But I don’t know how long my gift for complexity will last, and I don’t have a lot of specialized knowledge that would be needed to oversee even part of the organization.

        Shudder. Perhaps Jane Eyre is right and the solution is to keep very well and not die.

        • Trying very hard to follow Jane Eyre’s advice, but ….

          I find that I don’t want to deal with complexity right now, much less when I get even older. I keep looking for ways to simplify my life. A well-run place won’t always do things the way you’d personally like them done, either, though I think it’s like a good co-op or union: do what’s best for most people.

  1. We all need to keep on the lookout for such a place. We may haul our libraries there, too. I don’t want to run such a place, but I would put money toward it being established, because a lot of writers and artists need this place.

  2. I know one of the things that most outraged my mother and grandmother about my grandfather’s death was his sisters’ attempts to re-convert him to Roman Catholicism (away from the Methodist church). I was too young during his final hospitalization to know for sure what was happening, but I think in the end my grandmother had to bar them from his room, which is pretty tragic. 🙁

  3. You may want to look into liberation Catholicism. I thought I hated all religion until a friend of mine (who had grown up liberation catholic and is now pagan) and I got into discussions about religion and the way things are handled with that faith seems a lot more aligned with the humanist views you’re expressing here. My brain is NOT wired to religion, but if I wanted religion, that’d be even over UU for my to try list.

    • I don’t hate all religions. I just don’t want any of them to try to convince me to follow their ideology. If they provide comfort without preaching their ideas at me, fine.

  4. If you know what you want at the end of your life, the key things are to write it down, and to tell somebody. Line up the DNR documents; have a will drawn up; figure out who will handle your literary estate and tell SFWA who is doing it. If you know what you want at your funeral, write it down. (This can become very detailed indeed. I have seen instructions that included what the deceased was going to wear, including hairstyle and jewelry, for the viewing, what hymns were going to be sung, and who was going to make the chicken salad for after, because if Mildred was left to do it it would have relish in it.)
    Put a copy of all these documents into a file folder or envelope, and label it DEATH. Don’t stick it in your safe deposit box, because no one can get into it after you die until after probate. Keep it in a file cabinet or something, and tell your kids/partner/best friends/etc about it and where it is.