Numerous countries in the southern part of North America deal with death in a more celebratory way than we do. If you have ever been to Mexico or New Mexico on what the Catholic Church calls All Saints and All Souls Day, you are in for a visual feast that honors the dead. This holiday was originally held in the spring before the Spanish colonized Mexico, and then slowly changed to reflect the church calendar.
In this country we go to the graves of our loved ones with flowers and tears and memories, but in a celebration and honoring of the dead in Mexico it can be a two-day intensive colorful remembrance. It always makes me wish that I had been a cultural or social anthropologist or a writer for National Geographic.
All of this came to mind during the meeting of the Death Café this past Sunday. I have attended several times now, and each time learn something, feel something and come away humbled at the openness and non judgemental attitude of the group. Since the group is not static, there are new people every time, I can only think that the attitude and ability of the facilitators and the willingness we all have to explore the subject makes it a productive group. We are gentle with each other. With a new end of life amendment for the Colorado constitution coming up for vote , the discussion was partially concerned with the law.
My attendance his time had a purpose: a need to personally define what the phrase “death with dignity” meant to me. Coming away from the 90 minutes experience, the personal definition of dignity for me was clarified. Feeling honored, by being taken care of in accordance to your personal choices and wishes would be my goal. Because we are always given limited choices in life and death, the choices may be difficult for me, but the way someone helps me carry them out would show me worthy of care. I may not know what that looks like until it happens, but at least now it is more defined that it was.
You can show esteem and honor to the people who will deal with your last illness or accident and death by having your papers and wishes in order. Let people know what you want. You have been a shining light all of your life, don’t fizzle out now because this is difficult. Next Sunday, some of the Cafe members who are hospice volunteers or nurses, will bring the forms needed to get those pesky ducks in a row..a DNR form and in Colorado what we have called the MOST form about last wishes .
Help your loved ones know how to treat you with your personal definition of dignity.