Check http://www.freeu.com for the next scheduled class on How to Become an Extraordinary Elder, taught by yours truly, Joanna Hudson at Colorado Free University.
This afternoon I found myself sitting in a cozy section of the Tattered Cover Bookstore on Colfax Ave in Denver attending a meeting of the Denver Death Café. My friend Dianne told me about it and it is an appropriate subject for the blog. My belief is that an Extra Ordinary Elder, while not welcoming death at the moment, knows that the subject of end of life is on the list of things to talk about with family and friends and come to grips with for yourself. It is the final learning. At this point the vast majority of elders have family or friends who are no longer here and in some other reality.
Jon Underwood of the United Kingdom brought the older idea to the web and since then the groups, run by a facilitator have sprung up all over the globe. He believes that we have lost control of one of the most significant events we ever have to face. That is also shown in the book Never Say Die, by Susan Jacoby. Other books were mentioned in the group and I will list them on my next reading list.
We started with self introductions and there were seventeen people of all ages around the circle. Several of us may have come with someone, but most were strangers when we began. In telling our reasons for being there or our experiences with death, we heard from a young mother who had two children die from a rare genetic defect, very elder parents who lived beyond 100 years and numerous people who had a loved one who languished from a terminal illness with no help in letting go. The institutions that allow long living at the expense of quality of life were vigorously discussed. We had several counselors in the group and hospice workers and couple in training.
One of the main themes was also that having control of your life at the end is the ultimate in self-care, and that you may have chosen quality over quantity, which can be against the social and religious norms of the culture. The issue of mental health was raised and that how to deal with a suicidal person is not necessarily how to deal with a person who wants to die with dignity. We are not trained as run of the mill humans to deal with the emotions of either, and asking for help from professionals may only lead you to be more confused. The discussion is evolving and on going and not catching up to the need we all have.
As we went around the group and mentioned one thing we got out of the hour and a half circle, another theme came up: this is complicated and many layered, but it is time to open our friends and families hearts to discuss the subject to lessen the number who are ill-equipped to deal with it in any capacity.
One of the big learnings I took away for elders is that our need and capacity to be independent is very strong and you do not need to be physically vital to still have the capacity.
Please get your wishes known to anyone you know….while the law does not support much at the moment, end of life choices will be a topic for the forseeable future.
Look up Death Cafe on Google and learn more.
Have a joyous week!