2012: a time to accept our mortality

Well, here we are at the start of 2012. Normally I wouldn’t hesitate in wishing everyone a Happy New Year.  But somehow I can’t bring myself to use the word ‘happy’.  Not when we are confronted by such global uncertainty.

Yet on a twelve miles walk yesterday across magnificent Cotswold countryside it was easy to forget the seriousness of what humanity is facing.  Thank goodness for that.  I think the human spirit can take so much gloom and despondency before it innately begins to seek out something to soothe and calm the soul.

The walk certainly did that for me.  It always makes me marvel to know – and trust – that the untidy mess of mouldy undergrowth and all those tight brown buds on skeletal branches will turn within not-so-many weeks into verdant hedgerows and flourishing trees.

For me, this cycle of life and death is truly miraculous and hope-filled.  So hope-filled that when I returned home, I updated my living will (also known as Advanced Decision). This clearly states that I do not wish to receive life prolonging treatments or to be resuscitated if and when my quality of life deteriorates beyond what is acceptable to me.  This includes dementia related illnesses.  It was witnessed by a close friend, with a willing and enthusiastic flourish of her pen.  That is what I call a New Year present.

Setting aside the current cross-party political debate about who is  going to pay for end-of-life care for increasing numbers of elderly people, I believe that taking personal responsibility for how I want to end my life is the most significant decision I can make for my family, and, indeed, for society as a whole.

Dying back in the natural world is about clearing away the ‘old’ to make room for the new.  It is also about dead vegetation creating rich compost for fresh life to thrive.

Unfortunately it appears that humanity is hell-bent on trying to cheat this fundamental law of nature. But it won’t work. Nature is already fighting back, in ways that we can’t – or don’t want to – imagine.

So my 2012 New Year wish is for us all to stop chasing the illusive state of happiness.  Rather, I wish for us to learn to embrace and accept our mortality. By doing so, maybe we can experience what it feels like to truly give back to each other.

At last, choice is on the way for those not wanting resuscitation

I was very heartened to read yesterday’s Daily Telegraph’s piece, Emergency staff to be told if you want to live or die.

Backed by health minister Simon Burns, the Government is now keen for electronic records to be shared by paramedics and out-of-hours GPs, which will give seriously ill people the choice of whether they wish to receive life-saving treatment, or be allowed to die without further medical intervention.

According to the article, 8.8 million people currently have electronic records, but all of us registered as NHS patients in England will now be offered the opportunity to sign up for this facility.

This means that we can state our end-of-life wishes, and, as long as everything is in order, we will not be resuscitated if that’s what we want.

Hooray!

Continue reading “At last, choice is on the way for those not wanting resuscitation”

Pace-maker fitted for 97 year-old woman. Has the world gone completely mad?

I appreciate that care for the elderly by the NHS has become a contentious issue, but has the world gone completely mad?

My friend Diana popped in for a cuppa, and proceeded to tell me how her 97-year-old godmother has just had a pacemaker fitted. Since her godmother had expressly told her that she’d had enough of life, and wanted to die, Diana was understandably horrified.

Continue reading “Pace-maker fitted for 97 year-old woman. Has the world gone completely mad?”

A lesson well learnt about the importance of living wills

Living in the same location as two octogenarian couples is a salutary experience.  One couple, Brian and Enid, are fully engaged with the reality that time is running out.  The other couple, not.

Let’s start with Brian and Enid (all names have been changed).

Knowing that I had written a book on the dying experience, hand-in-hand Brian and Enid tapped on the door the other night and asked to talk to me about their decision to make a living will.

Continue reading “A lesson well learnt about the importance of living wills”

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