February 2020 was a turning point for us, Corona Virus was not an exaggeration or “going away” but instead was changing our world.

For our family, February 2020 meant hospice watch for my stepmother of almost 50 years.  At the age of 74 her COPD had taken control of her health and led to the hospice decision and a candid conversation about her end-of-life wishes.

Fortunately for us, she was willing to share what was important to her and as the oldest of eight this was a critical step.   Managing my own long, tough relationship with her and the various family opinions during difficult times is never easy and often angst filled, especially with a family group so large and diverse.  With her candor and openness, she also gifted us the opportunity to settle old issues and clear the air and share the gratefulness for all her gifts and influence on each of us.

As a community advocate for Advance Care Planning and Founder of Meaningful Life, I knew she gave us the ultimate gift.    We knew hospice was the right decision and we knew what her wishes were as things got worse.

The hospice watch lingered from February through June and it became apparent we needed to make some tough decisions when the major caregiver for my stepmother, a sister, needed to return to work.    That answer was a nursing home 125 miles away and close to her hometown.

COVID-19 guidelines call for a 14-day quarantine once she crossed the threshold of the nursing home.   We stood in the circle drive of the nursing home for a prolonged goodbye because we knew it could be the last time we would see her alive.   Our hope was that we would be visiting on the patio and masked on day 15….

She died six days later…and dying alone was one of her greatest fears.   Like so many other families are experiencing around the country, we were not there when she died.

We do not know when our time will come.   We are not promised tomorrow.    Our tendency is to strive to be in control.    My stepmother could not control the COPD any longer, but her death does support the importance of knowing that we honored her wishes with respect and love.   She gave us that gift through her conversation and clarity of her end-of-life wishes when she was heathier.

What keeps you from doing the same for your loved ones?   Fear, anxiety, denial, uncertainty?

The Meaningful Life website, 1life1decision1story.com, has many resources to make that step easier and possible.   The services are free.   Reach out and let’s start the conversation.

Our ultimate goal, after all, is not a good death but a good life to the very end.”

Atul Gawande

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