11-9-21 Pau Hana with Joel Merchant

We have a very heart-felt and searching discussion this week with Joel Merchant about the end of our lives and how we hope to see them come to pass.

2 Responses to “11-9-21 Pau Hana with Joel Merchant

  1. Ellen Goodman: End-of-life conversations are critical

    BOSTON — Is this what they mean by a death watch? The father of his country, a moral icon to the world, lies in a hospital bed as cameras wait outside and newspaper headlines offer a daily prognosis:
    “Mandela on Life Support.” Watching this saga from afar, I know that Mandela’s family is by no means the only one going through this.
    Every day in our country, thousands of families face such crises without being able to call on the voice of the person they love. It’s a familiar drama in an era when death is no longer likely to be “natural.” How do we know when medical technology extends life and when it prolongs suffering?
    I have heard many similar stories since I helped found The Conversation Project, a national campaign to encourage conversations about our wishes for end-of-life care. It seems as if everyone has a story to tell of a good death or a hard death. The difference often hinged on whether people had expressed their wishes and, in turn, had those wishes respected.
    Too many people are dying in the way they would not choose. 70 percent of Americans want to die at home but 70 percent end up dying in hospitals and institutions. Home may not be a place to die, but it is a way — surrounded by loved ones, in comfort and in peace. Too many survivors are left not just mourning but feeling guilty, depressed, uncertain of whether they have done the right thing. Done what their mother, father, husband, friend would have wanted … if they had spoken about it.
    The Conversation Project is about the importance of having conversations early, at the kitchen table – not in a hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. We cannot wait for doctors to begin these talks because many are untrained and uncomfortable when the process goes from trying to save a life to saying goodbye. We cannot wait for “the right time.” Talking about death always seem too soon …. until it is too late. It is difficult to break the silence and talk about the end of life. We began The Conversation Project to make it easier. Thousands of people tell us: with help, these talks can be more intimate than intimidating. When the time comes and we are faced with cascading decisions, they are a comfort. We can help families who may be left in disarray at the worst time. Doctors tell stories about arguments between sisters and brothers over what mom would want. Mom hadn’t told them when she still could.
    There is a“teaching moment” in these stories. For those who watch and wait, saddened by this saga, ask each other: Have you had the conversation?

  2. End of Life Issues

    1. A final task: During a half century in Hawaii, I’ve been an active, high-energy community presence in social, religious, political, community and non-profit causes. Two heart valve replacement surgeries have reduced that sense of boundless energy. I’m determined to offer a final community outreach effort. My goal is to organize, participate in, and facilitate group conversations about end of life issues; to be a presence for people who gather to share stories about death in their lives, and make decisions about their own end-of-life wishes.

    2. Background: There’s a reason for my interest. It is my long-time familiarity with experiences surrounding death, dying, and being a presence for survivors.

    – Even before my teenage years, three people – very close, positively influential and nurturing in my upbringing – died prematurely. Lesson: It is possible to mourn without being crippled by sadness. Death is part of life and not frightful.

    – Years of surgeries followed my son’s birth with a severe disability. I spent countless hours in hospital pediatric wards, and had close contact with children who died and with their parents. Lesson: Early in my adult life, contact with death involved young children and their families.
    – The year my son was Hawaii State March of Dimes Poster Child, I helped begin the Spina Bifida Association of Hawaii, and served many years on its board. Following that I was Board Chair for the Protection and Advocacy Agency. Over the course of twelve years, I was close to families who lost children born with birth defects or who’d struggled with early childhood disease. Lesson: I learned to be a comforting presence for parents who lost a child.
    – During the forty years between my son’s early hospitalizations and my parents’ death(s), I’ve received hospice training at the Yale New Haven Medical Center, Indiana University Medical School, St. Francis Hospital, Rhode Island Home and Hospice Care and at Bristol Hospice.

    – During my adult years, many people close to me have died – including my daughter, at age 32, a month before my first heart surgery. Lesson: I’m experienced being in the company of a dying person and survivors. Importantly, I’m able to be present with people who’ve lost a child.

    – I’ve been active in organizations which assist with end-of-life issues: Final Exit Network, Death with Dignity, Hemlock Society, the Death Café, Compassion and Choices, and The Conversation Project.
    I’ve represented organizations which support death with dignity, and have been an active presence, providing information and guidance for individuals and families prior to and following a death.
    I have helped organize and facilitate conversations with over almost six hundred people in four states, who have gathered individually, as families, and in small groups – to discuss end-of-life issues. Groups typically meet regularly, each for two hours, spread over a three month period. Ten years ago, I developed and have facilitated a course at the university offered through the Osher Life Long Learning Institute. I’m delighted that new groups form ever more frequently, and I’d be am happy to be able of assistance in this area.

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