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Advanced Directive: Your Last Kind Gift

POSTED: June 25, 2017 8:49 p.m.

On this day, June 21, but in the year 1990, my father died.

He had been very ill with multiple myeloma – a horrendous cancer that destroyed his bones – for some time.

I will never forget getting a phone call from my mother a couple of weeks before he died. She was somewhat panicked.

The doctors wanted to know that if my father's heart were to stop, whether they should attempt resuscitation (a “do not resuscitate” or DNR order). Since I had some training in healthcare, she thought she should ask me for my opinion.

She literally said, “Bob, they want to know if they should try to bring Dad back if his heart stops.” I could hear the pain in her voice.

I was uncharacteristically speechless. Here was someone – my mother, no less – who was asking me what to do if the love of her life were to die. I told her I couldn't make that decision for her.

But, I never felt good about that answer. I wanted a better answer. I wanted to help my mother. I just didn't know how.

Since then, I have had many experiences as a pastor that have led me to believe that I am not the one who should have the answers, that I can’t have the answers, but that the patient does. And yet, oftentimes and for many reasons the patient is simply incapable of making decisions at the end of life.

And so, we pastors are often in a place similar to that which I was in as a son. We do our very best to listen to all the wishes of the family and help them navigate the difficult decisions that come with traumatic and terminal illnesses. Yet, trying to come up with one solution from what is often the opinions of a multitude of people can be tremendously difficult, if not impossible.

Then, of course, there are those situations in which the family members simply can’t let their loved one go. Or when one family member says they know what their loved one would want, and another one disagrees.

So, here is the very best gift you can give your love ones. Please, please fill out an Advanced Directive.

An Advanced Directive (“Living Will”) form can be found at hospitals, or even online at aging.dhs.georgia.gov, the latter of which is a documents specifically for healthcare in Georgia. Unlike in 1990, Advanced Directive forms are available everywhere, and you will likely be asked if you have filled one out if you are admitted to the hospital for any reason.

I hope no one ever needs your form, or mine. Or if they need it, I hope that’s a long time from now. But, I have seen all too often family members struggle with answers to questions no one ever thought about asking their loved one. And when they think they know the answers, there is no record of it anywhere.

By filling out an Advance Directive, you make your wishes crystal clear. And that removes some of the pain and grief your loved ones will naturally have when they’re at your bedside.

If you put an Advanced Directive in the hands of your family members, you are not being morbid; you are being thoughtful, kind. You will enable them to experience more fully the holy moments that come with death. They will be free to focus more on simply being with you rather than on what to do.

An Advanced Directive will also enable your family members to accurately determine when they are no longer prolonging your life, but rather prolonging your death.

I know, no one likes to think about this. And frankly, that's pretty much the problem.

Yet, I am convinced that there is such a thing as a “good death.” Have the foresight now to plan for one.

Your Advanced Directive is your plan to leave this world amidst peace. Please, fill one out.

And make your last gift one of the kindest gifts you can give. 

On this day, June 21, but in the year 1990, my father died.

 

He had been very ill with multiple myeloma – a horrendous cancer that destroyed his bones – for some time.

 

I will never forget getting a phone call from my mother a couple of weeks before he died. She was somewhat panicked.

 

The doctors wanted to know that if my father's heart were to stop, whether they should attempt resuscitation (a “do not resuscitate” or DNR order). Since I had some training in healthcare, she thought she should ask me for my opinion.

 

She literally said, “Bob, they want to know if they should try to bring Dad back if his heart stops.” I could hear the pain in her voice.

 

I was uncharacteristically speechless. Here was someone – my mother, no less – who was asking me what to do if the love of her life were to die. I told her I couldn't make that decision for her.

 

But, I never felt good about that answer. I wanted a better answer. I wanted to help my mother. I just didn't know how.

 

Since then, I have had many experiences as a pastor that have led me to believe that I am not the one who should have the answers, that I can’t have the answers, but that the patient does. And yet, oftentimes and for many reasons the patient is simply incapable of making decisions at the end of life.

 

And so, we pastors are often in a place similar to that which I was in as a son. We do our very best to listen to all the wishes of the family and help them navigate the difficult decisions that come with traumatic and terminal illnesses. Yet, trying to come up with one solution from what is often the opinions of a multitude of people can be tremendously difficult, if not impossible.

 

Then, of course, there are those situations in which the family members simply can’t let their loved one go. Or when one family member says they know what their loved one would want, and another one disagrees.

 

So, here is the very best gift you can give your love ones. Please, please fill out an Advanced Directive.

 

An Advanced Directive (“Living Will”) form can be found at hospitals, or even online at aging.dhs.georgia.gov, the latter of which is a documents specifically for healthcare in Georgia. Unlike in 1990, Advanced Directive forms are available everywhere, and you will likely be asked if you have filled one out if you are admitted to the hospital for any reason.

 

I hope no one ever needs your form, or mine. Or if they need it, I hope that’s a long time from now. But, I have seen all too often family members struggle with answers to questions no one ever thought about asking their loved one. And when they think they know the answers, there is no record of it anywhere.

 

By filling out an Advance Directive, you make your wishes crystal clear. And that removes some of the pain and grief your loved ones will naturally have when they’re at your bedside.

 

If you put an Advanced Directive in the hands of your family members, you are not being morbid; you are being thoughtful, kind. You will enable them to experience more fully the holy moments that come with death. They will be free to focus more on simply being with you rather than on what to do.

 

An Advanced Directive will also enable your family members to accurately determine when they are no longer prolonging your life, but rather prolonging your death.

 

I know, no one likes to think about this. And frankly, that's pretty much the problem.

 

Yet, I am convinced that there is such a thing as a “good death.” Have the foresight now to plan for one.

 

Your Advanced Directive is your plan to leave this world amidst peace. Please, fill one out.

 

And make your last gift one of the kindest gifts you can give.

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