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Living a Good Life Includes Preparing for Death

Posted on 06/17/2013

U.S. News and World Report: Margie Jenkins apologizes for being slow to respond to a recent email, saying she has  just returned from a cruise to celebrate her 90th birthday. Jenkins  believes in living the good life, but for her, this also means planning for the good death. Like a lot of us, her views were shaped by her family experiences.

When  her aging father could no longer live independently in his home, she  recalls, he was despondent about leaving behind a lifetime of memories  and going to an institution that could accommodate few of his  possessions. Jenkins, a Houston psychotherapist, recognized that her dad  was engaged in a difficult, but natural, grieving process. Her therapy  for her father included placing a tape recorder on the kitchen table and  letting her dad say goodbye to his home.

“We  just walked through the house, and he talked about all the things in the  house – what they meant to him and who in the family he wanted to have  them,” she recalls. “Later on, after he had moved out, he said to me,  ‘That was a real gift to me. Thank you.'”

That  memory stayed with Jenkins, who has spent decades on a personal crusade  to bring plans for dying into the conversations people have with their  spouses and family members. Other groups, like The Conversation Project, have similar goals.

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