Over the past several years, people from all over the country have opened up their hearts to The Conversation Project (TCP). Through the sharing of a myriad personal narratives, TCP has been able to build our campaign and use the messages from these stories to reemphasize the deep necessity of having end-of-life conversations. To show our appreciation to all who have opened the doors into their personal lives to support our work, the TCP team has decided to reciprocate by showing you who we are, why we do what we do and how this work has impacted us.
How long have you been a part of the TCP team and, in your own words, how would you describe your role?
I joined the TCP team in early 2017. After learning what this small but mighty team had been doing to support individuals and communities all over the US and beyond, I jumped for joy to be able to work with this group and to be pulled into this movement!
My role is part detective –uncovering what we are learning (through measurement and story collection), discovering how this work is making an impact on individuals, families and communities and using those lessons to improve TCP’s work. And, my role is part honey bee – helping to cross-pollinate, spark and spread ideas and this work more widely through facilitating community calls, coaching teams, presenting and disseminating learning.
What has been the ultimate highlight of working on the team?
The people we work with are the most passionate and giving people I have ever met! Individuals in the community have such passion and drive to not only help people have these important conversations with their loved ones but also to help those within healthcare improve our system to respect those wishes by all working together. This work bridges both sides together and the ultimate reward is helping to provide tools, resources and support that can help communities make this bridge stronger.
What has been your greatest lesson learned?
The power of stories and getting “proximate”. It is absolutely humbling to be invited in and to be present to listen to someone share their story of a “good death” or “hard death”. In this work, every single story is significant and opens a window to an opportunity to discover and learn how we can do better to promote the importance of end-of-life conversations, discovering what matters most AND ensuring those wishes are understood and respected in our healthcare system.
Working for TCP, you get the opportunity to encounter so many people and hear a breadth of moving stories about how our initiative has impacted lives. What has been one of, if not, the most memorable story you’ve heard or interaction you’ve had with someone thus far?
In one of my first starter kit workshop sessions in Florida, I was at a table with a group of pretty seasoned ACP folks who had themselves gone through the starter kit already in past workshops. After we were given time to reflect on the first few questions in the kit, one woman shared her surprise that her answers had changed and continued to change as she listened to the others sharing their thoughts at the table. She was eager to take her new wishes back home and talk with her family. I could completely relate to her discovery, as I learn something new every single day, at every session, on every call that changes me personally. We know this is about conversations– an ongoing, evolving and changing continuum – and even the most seasoned of us are constantly learning and adapting.
People often assume that because we’re in the business of end-of-life, our day-to-day activity must be leaden with a morbid overcast. However, the TCP team and our community champions have constantly debunked this notion through their expression of the joy that they find in this line of work. Can you say a little something about this paradox of finding happiness in talking about the topic of death/end-of-life?
I joined the team about nine months after having gone through some personal (unexpectedly early) end-of-life experiences with my own mom. This work has helped me heal and makes me feel constantly connected to her in ways I never thought I would. As an ordained minister, hospital chaplain and former nurse, her life was dedicated to helping others by supporting conversations about what mattered most to them when it came to care. She was always prompting conversations with my sisters and me about how she wanted to live until the very end – it was a gift I hadn’t realized she was giving us. What better joy than to continue her legacy, knowing she is smiling down on me saying, “NOW she finally gets it!”