Mar 292020 2 Responses

You Must Have This Conversation Now

I’ve often heard it said, “I just don’t want to die alone.” There’s little doubt that death is better when surrounded by the ones we love. Yet having been around a good number of people at the time of death, it could be that dying alone isn’t nearly as scary as grieving alone.

For many at or near the point of death, consciousness is lost. The hospice nurses say that hearing is the last sense to go, but none of us truly know if the final words we are saying to our loved one is heard or not. While my grandmother’s breathing labored on, I leaned into her ear and said, “Thank you. I love you. Go on now.” This was a quote of hers which she often said to me when I lingered in the kitchen too long. Moments later she died.

Did she hear my words? Who knows. (See: What Matters the Day You Die)

While no one wants to die alone, I think it could be far more peaceful than we imagine if we have everything in order.

It’s grieving alone that worries me.

When I walk out of the hospice room leaving two people–the patient and only one loved one–that’s when I worry. We all need support during times of great sorrow. While no one can take our pain from us, others can shoulder part of the load. Grief is a hint lighter when someone is with us. It is almost a weight too great to bear when it is ours to carry alone.

This is just one of the issues on my mind as increasing parts of the world are being put into various levels of lockdown with the spread of Covid-19. For many, in China, Italy, and other locations, the pandemic has greatly changed their lives. New York and New Orleans are at the leading edge of chaos. But for many of us, we are still days or weeks away from the peak of Covid-19.

Yet an important change has already taken place which everyone should notice–hospitals have changed their visitation policies.

On an average month, I’m in and out of our two local hospitals multiple times. I’m rushing to the hospital when a church member makes an emergency visit to the ER. I’m on the hospice wing saying goodbye to a dying friend. In the surgical ward praying before surgery, at the waiting room engaging a family, in ICU, and on the main floor, pastors and visitors are allowed to come and go with ease.

But not now. With the threat of viral spread, hospitals have rightly clamped down their visitation policies. They’ve done so not just for visitors and pastors, but even for families. Women in Labor and Delivery are only allowed one visitor, leaving grandparents and siblings at home while the baby is born. Husbands and wives are separated from their spouses as one is admitted to the hospital. Loved ones are forced to wait in the car as their family members are treated in the ER.

These changes have the potential of greatly impacting our lives in ways that many have never imagined.

Picture the end of life. Have you ever considered the possibility of dying alone? Have you ever thought that your mom or dad could be in the hospital and you not be able to be with them as they transition from this world to the next?

This is the reality during Covid-19. And it’s not just for those with the virus. A possible pandemic doesn’t stop the normal tragedies of life–accidents, heart attacks, cancer, etc., but it will impact how those victims experience those circumstances. As I gathered last year packed into the hospice room overflowing with families and friends as the church member breathed their last, this year it’s possible that no one will be allowed to be with the patient.

Knowing what might lie ahead necessitates three vital conversations that we must have now. Having them only to find out they were unnecessary comes with no cost. But failing to have them only to find out they were necessary is far too big of a price tag to consider. (See: It’s the Last Kiss that Matters)

Three Conversations

Here are three conversations you need to have right now with your family:

The Practical. If you test positive for Covid-19 and have to be taken to the hospital, how do you want to be treated? Realize that most people who get the virus, have moderate symptoms, but also recognize that some take a dramatic turn for the worse. If the latter is your situation, what decisions need to be made regarding your treatment. If you are incapable to make decisions, who do you want to make decisions for you? Have you clearly communicated your wishes regarding resuscitation and life-support? In many circumstances, a family is present with a patient in a hospital. Understand that won’t be the case in this circumstance. What medical decisions need to be written down and best communicated. (Tip: Log into your medical history/record and make sure all information is accurate and fill out an advanced medical directive.)

The Personal. While death with Covid-19 is rare, it is more prevalent than other illnesses and tends to happen quickly. Now is the time to make sure nothing is left unsaid. Truth be told, we should always have these personal conversations. No one is promised tomorrow. It would be tragic to suddenly die and not fully communicate your affection for those you love. Sadly, most who die from Covid-19 will die without love ones nearby. Before it comes to that point, make sure you have said everything you want to say to those you love. Imagine a loved one on their death bed–grandparent, parent, spouse, child, friend. What would you want to say to them before they die? Say it now.  Don’t know how? Start a conversation with “I’ve been watching on TV and many of these people aren’t getting to say goodbye to their loved ones. I wouldn’t want that to happen to us, so ___________.”

The Philosophical. It’s easy on a daily basis to push aside thoughts or conversations about what comes after death. Yet when one is on their death bed, at the gravesite, or reflecting back on the life of the one they loved, knowing what that person believed is important. Do you believe in God? Do you believe in heaven or hell? Is there life after death? These things matter. Don’t assume you know what your loved one believes. A loving family can have these conversations without judgment or pressure. Don’t try to force your beliefs upon the one you love, yet don’t water down the ideas upon which you place your life. Have the conversation. (See: You Can’t Prove Jesus)

It’s Unlikely

The chances of Covid-19 killing you are slim. The chances of it killing someone you know and love is greater, but still not very high. Yet the virus is deadly enough that we should pay attention. Even while we are social distancing, we should be emotionally drawing closer to those that we love. One step we should take is to have these three conversations.

If you have them and nothing happens, you won’t regret it.

If you don’t have them and something happens, you will forever question why you failed to act.


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