Courageous Conversations

I read a profound book by Atul Gawande ”Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine, and What Matters in the End”.

I lost my father and my brother-in-law last year. This book and its message were perfectly timed. I was ready.

There was tremendous wisdom in these pages and clarity about mortality. It allowed me to contemplate my recent losses and my own thoughts of what do I want when my time is here.

I have two major takeaways.

The first one is to ask the hard questions. Ask the questions of your terminally ill loved one. If you are the one with the illness, start the talking about what is important to you.

What do you understand about your prognosis?
What are the fears about what lies ahead?

Sometimes neither you nor your support have the answers to the above questions. It is important to gather information from your providers. Some will give you information only if you ask, while others share the knowledge and leave it open to you and/or your family to decide what to do with the information. The model that spoke to me was one of shared decision making where the process is like a conversation. Information is shared and discussed. Everyone has time to contribute. This is an empowering process for the terminally ill person.

The second takeaway is about courage. It takes courage to ask the hard questions. It takes courage to say the answers to those hard questions. The courage is about facing the information that a person or family most fear. Using this courage gives the ill person the ability to decide what are the priorities and what matters most at the end.

Are you going to listen to your fears or are you going to make your own decisions and have the experience that means the most to you?

This is a different kind of medicine, and it makes possible for a person and the people who love them to know what really matters. It all starts with having the courage to deeply love and ask the hard questions.

Big Hugs and Much Love,