Yesterday’s Albuquerque Death Cafe was one of the best we’ve ever had. Comments included “fun,” “thought-provoking,” “interesting,” “emotional,” “needed,” “wonderful,” and “a stupendous gathering of folks… quite rewarding!”
Twenty five people attended, with two people coming from far away Las Cruces and one person from Moriarty. While it was a little crowded in the living room and dining room at my home (Lola had to sit out in the hall), the conversation ranged all over different end-of-life topics, and laughter regularly punctuated the proceedings.
We started out by discussing news about a case of a woman who did not want her life prolonged. She did not want artificial nutrition or hydration. Then she developed Alzheimer’s disease and the facility where she was being cared for kept feeding her and would not allow her to starve to death. When they put food to her lips, she ate it, so they felt they were not going against her wishes.
One participant noted that stopping eating and drinking is a valid choice and not considered suicide. If a living will states the patient doesn’t want artificial nutrition and hydration, that should not be forced upon the patient. Nonetheless, people do change their plans as their life situations change and the end-of-life looms closer.
We discussed the importance of having an informed advocate who can speak without emotional interference in critical medical situations and how DNR orders often get ignored. Control issues were voiced. One woman talked about how the nurses asked her about donating her dying husband’s organs. We laughed when she said, “Well, he’s still using them.”
Three of the attendees were in their 30s. The group discussed the importance of getting younger people involved with conversations about advance directives, wills and power of attorney documents. It’s the people who die young who can make the biggest impact preserving others’ lives by donating their organs. But how do we get young people, who think they are immortal, to consider these kinds of issues?
One attendee noted that 81% of people learn visually. So the film clip presentations that I do are an excellent way to reach and teach!
We talked about how vacation plans seem far away, and suddenly it’s time to pack. We think of death as far in the future, and suddenly it’s closer than we thought.
Grief was a big issue – how people avoid talking about it, and how important it is to deal with it. One person said, “Feeling sad is the price you pay for love, the cost of human relationships…. Joy is balanced by loss.”
We talked about books (The Conversation) and movies (The Fountain). We talked about green burial and the documentary film A Will for the Woods.
We shared news about the upcoming health symposium on end-of-life issues at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces on May 1. We will be holding a lunchtime Death Cafe with 300 people. This might be a record setting attendance! Check back at The Family Plot Blog for more information as we get closer to the event.
Thanks to everyone who brought food and flowers to the Death Cafe! Both Lola and I are enjoying them.