The Big Conversation
The first thing to say is WE ALL DIE!
In the last few years I’ve seen a number of talks / conferences called “the big conversation”, to get people talking on the subject of death and dying – dying matters!
There are plenty of people who find this subject hard to cope with and don’t want to talk about it and yes, it can be difficult, those people are right when they find it uncomfortable, but just because it is difficult doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it.
Why is it important?
It is useful if we know what is going to happen, we wouldn’t run a business and not talk about future planning? We wouldn’t enter a new relationship and talk about the future? We wouldn’t buy a new house without imagining our new life in that house? So why do we go through life and are reluctant to talk about death? Even the word has issues, there are so many different phrases for it, falling off your perch, passing on, going to heaven / hell etc.
So what is going to happen? The truth is we often don’t know, although we all know that ultimately we will die, we don’t know when, where and in what circumstances, we just know at some point it is going to happen.
Thinking about it at any age / time / circumstance is a useful exercise from time to time. The people who get left behind need to know what they are expected to do, so give them a clue. Instructions can contain as much or a little detail as you want and they can change, it isn’t written in stone. It might be the music at the funeral, the inscription for the service, instructions as to what to do with your personal possessions in detail that isn’t in your Will. Those people who survive then have a focus, they cannot prevent you dying, but they can do that for you (whatever that is!).
And for those who are passing it, they know that firstly those that are left have some tools to support them, they know what to do and have had an opportunity to ask some questions and raise their own concerns (which may surprise you). You can also know that you have done what you can and have peace of mind.
But since we often don’t know when, where and in what circumstance we will die, planning is key, to cover as many possible eventualities as you can. So the obvious things are: make a Will, make a funeral plan, create Lasting Powers of Attorney, speak to a financial advisor and get your affairs in order, file your paperwork, so that it is easy to find, think about those that are left behind and how they will cope in the first few hours / days / weeks / months and ongoing into the future and make sure they if they need taking care of, this is in place as far as it is possible to put in place.
And the big thing, have a conversation, perhaps only once every year or few years, but make sure that it is a subject that it is OK to talk about. Not just “if you ever need to talk, I’m here”, rarely are those offers taken up! It is a conversation that starts with “I’ve been thinking and I want to talk to you about dying and I want to let you know what I have done and what I would like you to do and I want to hear your thoughts”.
Yes, it can be a tough conversation, but when you revisit it, it will be easier next time!
I think as well as the subject of death — which most people avoid, if at all possible — we need to consider a Socratic dialogue about a life well lived. Too often we get wrapped up in a life of doing, but don’t live fully. The starting point is Who am I? If we can address that question, both spiritually and psychologically, I think the subject of death then becomes much easier to deal with.
Thank you for the comment. I love the idea of a dinner table discussion about who we all are with our families and those around us we love and who love us! And yes I’m sure that it would be part of discussions about infirmity and death could be part of that wider discussion. Even in infirmity, it is possible to live well and perceive that life well lived, to enjoy a meal with good conversation and a joke!
I really hope these conversations happen, as all too often I see families when they have not happened enough and those left dealing with the consequences find the whole thing overwhelming.