Most of us do not have what we feel have the adequate words to talk about death or end of life, however, in many cases a person’s culture provides a way to do just this. In effect, it turns the end of life process into a ceremony, often a celebration. Take, for instance, cultures that celebrate death as they celebrate the beginning of life: the Hindu’s celebrate by bathing in sacred waters, offering prayers and food to their ancestors as they return to the afterlife; the Japanese celebrate by cleaning and decorating the graves of their loved ones and releasing lanterns to help guide their spirits. And then there is the Day of the Dead which dates back to the Aztec Empire and has blended with the Catholic All Souls’ Day in a way to celebrate loved one’s end of life as a joyous occasion on par with one’s beginning of life.
Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 1st and focuses on families and friends coming together to celebrate the life and end of life of their loved ones. Common activities include cleaning and decorating graves, playing music while dancing with elaborate and colorful costumes and build alters for their loved ones. The structure of the culture provides the framework for people to cope – it gives the answer to “what do I do now?” No matter the culture and its ceremonial beliefs with regards to death or end of life, everyone has the opportunity to share and document their own preference for their own care at the end of their life.
How can you have your wishes honored at the end of your life? The Day of the Dead may give your and your family the perfect opportunity to begin the conversations of advance care planning. Some cultures may discourage transparency when it comes to issues around death and consider the topic taboo. Advance care planning is a loving process of letting your end of life care wishes be made known to your loved ones, family and healthcare provider in the event you are ever in a position where you are unable to convey your wishes. This means not only verbally expressing your wishes but most importantly documenting your wishes by:
- Completing your advance directive paperwork.
- Designating someone who you can trust will carryout your wishes even if they don’t agree with them.
- Discuss your wishes and share your documents with your decision-maker, family and physician.
Imagine the relief for your family to know exactly how to respect your wants. Help to make things easier on you and your family. And if you do not align with a culture that celebrates Day of the Dead or bathing in sacred waters, you may be able to celebrate by knowing that you have planned ahead for your end of life care.
If you are having difficulties with starting the conversation with your loved ones and want to know how to have the conversation, please visit any of the following resources:
Remember there are many ways to celebrate the beginning and the end of life, please make sure you have your wishes for end of life care documented so that you know YOUR WISHES will be honored.
What a great time to discuss your wishes as we begin to plan for the celebration of Day of the Dead.