“Forget about planning your funeral; begin planning your end of life!” That was the first response to my question, “What was your ‘takeaway’ from reading Autumn’s Grace?” as a recent discussion with The Neighbours’ Book Club was winding down.
There were nods around the room. The speaker continued, “I have started talking with the people I love about how I want my last days to be, and I ask them what they would like for theirs.” It was a reaction that I did not anticipate as I was writing Autumn’s Grace. At most, I had hoped that readers would vicariously, through the eyes and ears of Max, Marge, Jessie, Jane and Ethan, feel more informed about the challenges of diagnosis, treatment and care-taking. Maclean’s cross country conversations on End of Life Care: A National Dialogue have, I suspect, accelerated the interest in considering the issues, and for these fora I am grateful.
If individuals, couples, families and communities prepared for end-of-life as well as we do for pregnancy, childbirth and infant/child-development we might enter our last stage of life’s journey with less fear and more informed support.
The second response to my query was, “We can do better.” This speaker was not suggesting that people (family members, health care professionals) and organizations (hospitals, community health) were mal-intended. She thought that perhaps individuals and organizations did not stop to examine recurring negative patterns, and adjust accordingly. Without being prescriptive, Autumn’s Grace shines a light on some opportunities for improvement.
Both responses resonated with me. In 2013, the Faculty of Nursing at University of Toronto dared alumnae to dream of better endings.* Dr. Sioban Nelson, then Dean, noted that “until we see death and dying as part of the continuum of care, Canada will remain a poor place to die.” I agree. We can do better. Simply put, that was my motivation for writing Autumn’s Grace.
* See: Dare to Dream Of Better Endings, Pulse Spring/Summer 2013, Volume 6, Number 1. Pulse is the magazine for Alumnae of The Bloomberg School of Nursing.