An Alive Conversation on End of Life Wishes


Though written in the aftermath of my father's choice to end his life, now twenty years ago, when he was in the late stages of pancreatic cancer, I hope this personal reflection can help and support others as they engage in courageous conversations about what people hope for as they approach the end of life.

The experience and the writing of the book happened a decade before, by chance and good fortune, I began creating leadership development programs for nonprofit organizations that serve elders. So what was a family story for me, now is a much larger society-wide dialogue.

While the open conversation with Dad was in a sense unexpected, his willingness to include my brother and me in his thinking about what he hoped for at life's end was an enormous gift.

So, I lift up this book--so close to the bone and so close to my heart--hoping it might help people who are struggling with end of life issues for themselves--to encourage them to make their wishes clear. I especially hope it will encourage parents to talk with children and other family members--sharing their thoughts about their wishes.

Those wishes can change for us. The conversation is meant to be alive. And even if social pressures and policies mean that we can't always do what we wish, we can still be clear in these wishes and this book could be a helpful support for that conversation.

Listening at Dawn

The Fog moves in now
Solitary loon song
slices the emergent dawn
and one small wake on grey
mirrored water marks
the trail of muskrat
quiet on his way
across the cove.

Gull cries, complaining,
whining at the loss of
favored rock
to some competitor,
bigger bird.

Then it is quiet once again,
and even insect sounds rise to
the surface of our hearing,
like symphonies or
steady tuning of a random
orchestra of instruments.
Later as sunset,
silhouetted on a rock
stands watcher,
great blue heron,
motionless in mute and silent
tribute to a day now
bowing to the dusk,
and then with one
great stretch, a silent rising
on grey air,
it, too is gone without a sound.

Judy Brown
The Choice. pg 199


"Let death be what takes us, not lack of imagination"- BJ Miller