The successful “Engage with Grace” campaign resulted in ~95 bloggers promoting end-of-life care discussions with family members over Thanksgiving. Paul Levy called it the first “medical blog rally on the Internet.” I wonder how many readers took the challenge?
I spent Thanksgiving with my sister (mom of 3) and brother-in-law in Michigan. After our dinner (with the kids tucked in for the night) we enjoyed a glass of wine and a game of Cranium (if you haven’t tried this game yet, you might want to pick one up in time for the next group of holidays – it’s like Pictionary, Charades, Trivial Pursuit, and American Idol wrapped into one). I looked for an opportunity to “pop the question” on end-of-life issues.
During a brief lull between rock song humming I casually inquired about whether or not my sister and brother-in-law had a living will. They said they hadn’t thought of it but agreed that it would be important to have one. We discussed various scenarios related to organ donation, end-of-life care, and cremation vs. burial preferences. Things degenerated a bit as I asked what their individual preferences might be for resuscitation under special circumstances (it was almost like a scene from Monty Python – “So, if you had no arms and no legs and you had a 10% chance of normal brain function recovery, would you like to be tube fed? How about if you had one leg and half an arm and a 5% chance of mental recovery? What about if you had 1/2 a liver, no spleen, and only one eye worked, but you COULD do math questions?”) We all had a good laugh at the black humor, but recognized that something important underlay the jesting. There is no doubt that we each had a 100% chance of dying at some point during our lives.
And then something unexpected happened – my brother-in-law looked me in the eye and said, “If anything happened to us, we’d really love it if you took our children and raised them as your own.”
I was very touched and happily agreed to do so. I replied with a wagging finger, “Now this doesn’t mean that you should take up helmet-free motorcycling…”
We all had a good chuckle and returned to Cranium, each feeling a little richer for the experience – we knew how we’d like to be cared for in case of critical illness, and I’d become the proud new godmother of 3.