End-of-life: an unavoidable topic

March 27, 2024


Let’s face it: no one likes to consider their death. 

Few things are as sensitive (and downright scary) to some as discussions with loved ones about end-of-life and any associated care that might be necessary.

How do I want to live out my life? 

But as I entered my 70s, I began to worry. We don’t have children. Without a network of local family and friends in California, what would happen to me? Should I predecease my husband, what then? Moving back to my hometown wouldn’t change the situation. So what now?

For the past few years we’ve been casually eyeing continuing care communities. You know, the kind you can enter while still an active adult and that provides increasing levels of care through skilled nursing, should you need it.

There were some lovely options. But none really excited me enough to get on a plane (usually to Southern California) to visit. I wasn’t all that interested in tennis courts and pickleball. I wanted some level of spirituality attached to it. I wanted to be with a group of people who had similar values. Who enjoyed a life of the mind. Creative pursuits. Thoughtful people.

And then, last week, I ran across a brand new community in the greater Bay area. Zen-inspired. Quaker values. In an area I love. I got chills while speaking with the representative by phone. Adjectives popped into my head: Liberal. Socially conscious. Intellectually alive. Pet-friendly. And in my beloved Bay area.

Who knew spirituality would be so important to me?

Plus: it has a spiritual director!!! One who had been involved in zen hospice, a movement that aimed to help people die well…mindful and present. Yes, I know. It’s hard to think about death but in our senior years, it becomes easier. And so, once we came across this opportunity, M and I began to talk openly and directly about end of life issues.

I was surprised at how easy it was to discuss my fears about end of life and what I believe I need for a good death. I don’t expect it any time soon and I don’t want it soon, but I do want a caring community around me when the day comes.

This community had the potential to offer me almost exactly what I’d been looking for (without even knowing it’s what I wanted.) It was exciting!

Oh, it’s not all perfection. I don’t think anything is a dealbreaker, but we shall see. We’re going to visit in a couple weeks.

What do you want the end of your story to be?

As a younger person it would have been almost impossible for me to have a conversation about this. But my comfort level with this next stage of life and even my eventual death has been growing in recent years.

If you haven’t thought about how you want to live as you age and what a good death would mean to you —and you are already in your senior years– it’s time to start.

I hope you’ll walk with me on this journey, because I’m going to be writing about it here, sharing what I learn and my own considerations, in the hope that it might help you make some of your own decisions.

8 comments on “End-of-life: an unavoidable topic
  1. Alana says:

    I’ve been with several friends over the years during their final days. I sat with someone about four days before her peaceful death at home (from cancer) thanks to hospice care and, on the other end of the spectrum, a friend (three days before her death, also from cancer) who was hospitalized. Two totally different experiences. I am most interested in what you find and if there is anything like this in New York State.

  2. Laurie Stone says:

    A fascinating, and yes, scary subject. I love the place you found in California. It sounds like the perfect community of thoughtful, creative, intelligent people. I’d love that.

  3. An important and necessary, but not easy topic to discuss. I like to think our generation is approaching it better. My in-laws were all about staying in their home way past when it made sense and my MIL still wants “everything done” regarding end of life care. So did her sister and it was a miserable experience right up until she passed. Really discussing the options with your doctor or other medical person who knows about end-of-life options can make such a difference. Thank you for brining this up.

    • Yes, I agree about our generation. I think the stubbornness about staying in the home is just denial of reality. Yes, I’ll be writing more about this. I think we have a handle on it but we go back and forth as we are still in our young 70s. And yet, we see the time coming.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I’ve been thinking about it lately after another sibling passed away too young. This time, nothing was prepared, and his daughters are still scrambling to find information. I’m not only thinking about the type of community we should be in but also making sure the information someone will need is easily found.

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