Yesterday I read an article about end of life conversations. As I read the advice being given I reflected on the only end of life conversation I’ve participated in.
My mom, Cynthia Bademosi, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in January 2016. Before being given the official analysis, in our hearts we already knew. Auntie Marlene, my mom’s younger sister, had had Parkinson’s, as did her son, Kwame. So as a family, we intimately understood the disease and recognized the symptoms when they started showing up in my mother. We were in denial at first but after a while, we had to face facts and accept reality.
My mother was pragmatic. She maintained her health regimen and focused on wellness. My brothers and I supported and encouraged her to live fully and do everything she wanted.
We started on the journey to learn more and do more to help our mother. As part of my research I had a conversation with a friend who is a healthcare professional. A piece of advice she gave was to have an end of life conversation with mommy so we could understand what she wanted when the time came when she could no longer make decisions for herself.
In October 2016 my brothers and I decided we had to have the conversation. I went to my mom’s house to carefully broach the subject. How do you say to someone that you want to talk about the unthinkable – death – hers?
I still can’t remember how I worked up the nerve to say we have to talk – but I do remember my mom’s reaction. She was all over it. She indicated that she wanted to have this talk. She had been discussing it with her friends and wanted to sit down with us, her kids, to share her thoughts and wishes.
I did not see that coming!
We picked a Sunday afternoon to go to my brother’s house to talk. The four of us were there. I was armed with my researched questions and I lead the conversation. Tears. Choking emotions. Overwhelming denial. We experienced this and more.
The only thing that made that hour better was my mom. She was ready and prepared. She knew what she wanted and didn’t hesitate to make her thoughts known. She was clear of mind and focused. Having worked in healthcare most of her professional life she knew what to expect when her health started to decline. One of the things I will always remember was her saying, hearing is the last thing to go. “Read these bible verses to me and this is the music I want playing.” She provided a long list of both.
Here are some of the questions we asked:
When you can no longer make decisions for yourself who do you want to make financial decisions for you?
When you can no longer make decisions for yourself who do you want to make medical decisions for you?
Do you have a preference in a care giver – male or female?
When the time comes, what type of service do you want?