Our life is a compelling story. It is amassed with meaningful events as a result of our day-to-day encounter with the world. It is sustained and nourished by relationships and faith, which bring a more profound meaning to our every encounter. Like a movie narrative, life is composed of exciting events that elicit various emotions, excitements, and anticipations. Life is a story worth sharing.
Although God takes the ultimate resolve on the finality of life, He also gives us freedom and liberty to move and direct our stories. He allows us to find meaning in every event that unfolds in our life until the end.
We need to ensure a reasonable conclusion of our narratives in the same way a film director or a novel writer wraps up the fullness of their stories with a powerful ending. We should not lose sight of the end of life the way we celebrate its beginnings and in-betweens.
A conversation on end- of- life care is an effective way to encourage our families and loved ones to participate in the unfolding of our life story. It is a respectable way to make our wishes and preferences known to them. Conversation helps ensure that our faith, values, and wishes for ourselves and our families are respected all the way until the end.
For example, many people would prefer to die at home or in a home-setting surrounded by their loved ones in peace. However, only about twenty- four percent of Americans older than sixty-five dies at home. Sixty-three percent die in hospitals and nursing homes. This discrepancy may be attributed to the failure of doctors to communicate with their patients about end- of- life care and decisions. This may also be a consequence of people’s lack of understanding about the importance of advance care planning and the reluctance to talk about death itself.
It is important that families have an in-depth conversation on end -of -life care. This conversation will provide an opportunity for patients to have an active role in planning their medical care when they can no longer speak or decide for themselves. It will also allow family members to inquire, ask questions, clarify misconceptions, and explore the teachings and position of the Church on critical end-of-life issues.
I have written this guide on advance care planning to aid families in their conversation on end-of-life. I do not envision this resource to be a comprehensive guide. End-of-life issues are enormous and sometimes, complicated. They often vary based on family values, tradition, and culture.
You will find in this presentation the Church’s positions on some of the most common issues of end-of-life care. I integrated into the discussion my clinical experiences as a registered nurse when I worked in various clinical specialties, which included a hospice, as well as my ministerial encounters as a priest in providing spiritual guidance and pastoral support to the sick and their families. My narratives and actual encounters with people are valuable inputs in drawing the concepts and teachings of end-of-life care more relatable and relevant.
When we talk about having a peaceful death, we are actually talking about a peaceful and meaningful life. We talk about respecting the dignity of life, which is key to family harmony, unity, and peace. We should all learn to initiate conversations on this important issue. At some point in time, pondering on decisions we take at end of life is what we all must face.
I hope that reading this presentation will encourage readers to start a conversation on end- of- life care with their loved ones.