We’re beginning to talk more and more about death and dying since Brittany Maynard’s story when viral. This brave 29-year-old woman, suffering from an inoperable brain cancer moved to Oregon where she could be prescribed a lethal cocktail when she was ready to die. Whether or not you agree with her decision, she has certainly left her legacy by encouraging us to discuss our mortality more publicly.
Last week, I spoke to an audience about the subject and showed them a slide listing the three critically important questions people needed to talk about with their doctors and families, when making choices about facing the end of their lives.
1. Do you understand your situation and its potential outcomes?
2. What are your hopes, and fears?
3. What are the trade-offs you willing to make, or not make?
I turned quickly from the screen and suddenly got a little wobbly; stopped momentarily until my lightheadedness cleared, looked at my notes, and continued on uninterruptedly. During a short break someone came up to me and asked if I was feeling okay. I said that I had actually gotten a little lightheaded, but that I was fine now.
During the Q&A, the question arose as to why wait until the end of life when you are losing everything before addressing those three important questions? It would be wonderful to address our losses as they occurred instead of hiding from our families and ourselves. I asked us how many in the audience noticed my long pause. For the first time from the platform I said occasionally I had some difficulty with dizziness and balance, and was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor that wasn’t growing but pressing on my auditory nerve that left me with some balance issues.
I acknowledged my fear that if things got worse I could no longer speak, and continue to do what I loved. I thanked them for giving me the opportunity to say it publicly for the first time on the platform. Talking about it openly helps us clarify how we come to our losses.
Attendees came looking towards fans thanked me for making this difficult subject real for them, in the present moment. If you become aware of your growing limitations and do it publicly, you don’t have to spend the rest of your life hiding from your truth. What you once thought lost, can again be found… now that’s Amazing Grace.