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How to make farewell conversations more meaningful

Spending time with family over the holiday season can be a joyful reminder of just how much we cherish our conversations with loved ones. Whether it is sharing a meal with a sibling who lives in another city or enjoying quality time with a parent, we all seek these often fleeting opportunities to express ourselves to a loved one in a meaningful way.

What we can take for granted though, is that there will come a time when the ability to connect with family members is taken away from us without warning. That is why many experts tell us to have these important conversations while we are still able.

Bruce Feiler confronted this issue in a recent article in the New York Times entitled, “Exit Lines.”

Feiler writes,

Shelly Kagan, a philosopher at Yale and the author of ‘Death,’ said the odds are so ‘vanishingly small’ that you’ll know when you’re in a final conversation, you should avoid any possibility of regret by initiating interactions earlier. This includes what kind of medical interventions the person might want as well as what that person meant to you…

‘One of the things you can accomplish in these conversations is telling people broadly what it is they’ve done for you. What they taught you. Having an appreciation of that can deepen one’s sense of a life well-lived…’

When his own mother died, Dr. Kagan said, she was not in a position to have a conversation at the end. Later, her children found a letter she had written to them, along with one to her grandchildren, expressing her hopes for their lives. It was her way of having a meaningful conversation while her mind was still strong, Dr. Kagan said…

Dr. Kagan said there is considerable evidence that forcing ourselves to say things out loud helps us clarify thoughts that might otherwise be unformed. ‘It’s a richer experience when the receiving party is able to react,’ he said. ‘But even if they’re not, the vocalization can help in that you now have thoughts you wouldn’t have had anyway.’

People who have lost loved ones suddenly can attest to the power of that ‘final conversation,’ especially when faced with the despair of missing the chance to have that conversation.

Being proactive about recording a message either in writing or on video is significant because it allows you the security of knowing your voice will be heard. And maybe even more importantly, it ensures that your loved ones will never be in the helpless position of not knowing how you really felt.

MyDirectives continues to encourage individuals to record video messages because that is the most effective way of knowing that your voice will be heard if you are no longer able to communicate.

Have you taken steps to leave a message for your loved ones or have you received a message from a friend or family member? Share your story using the comments below, on Facebook or on Twitter.

The New Year

It’s the New Year’s resolution time again… full of promises of new habits, better diets, gym memberships, you name it.

The connection between the New Year and thinking seriously about our health is no coincidence. We often take our health for granted until it declines, or until something happens to a family member or friend that affects us to the point of considering our own situation.

This time, though, let’s do something different… something better. Let’s not just commit to improving our health, let’s also make plans in case of an emergency, an accident or a health crisis. Let’s face it, if there’s a crisis, chances are we won’t know the doctors treating us (probably not the paramedics or nurses either) and we could easily be disoriented or in a state of shock and not thinking clearly.

The easiest thing to do is to name some people (called “Healthcare Agents” or “Medical Proxies”) who know us well and are willing to help make decisions if we can’t. We can also give them, and our future doctors, some insight into what we want, our values and goals and the kinds of decisions we would make if we were coherent and able to communicate (called an “advance care plan” or “advance directive”).

We allow you to do it for free and have the piece of mind to know your wishes can be retrieved in an instant. Encourage your loved ones to do the same – you’re giving them a gift they’ll appreciate for a lifetime.

We invite you to start the New Year by declaring medical directives. Click here to get started and please join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.