END OF LIFE CONVERSATIONS
As a baby-boomer who has now faced the passing of my parents and in-laws, meaningful end-of-life conversations have been a source of ease for both the passing elders and the survivors. I have friends, colleagues and students with whom I have discussed our range of end-of-life experiences. While the passing of a loved-one is not without pain or sadness, for both the departing elders and the survivors, there is a greater sense of peace and ease for those who have engaged in meaningful end-of-life conversations. For families who delay or avoid these conversations, there is a significant likelihood of stress, regrets, and conflict.
In my life I have experienced the extremes of end-of-life conversations. In 1960 when I was 5-years old my 50-year old father died of a heart attack in the middle of the night. I awoke up the next and he was literally, gone – no conversation, no anticipation, no closure. Forty (40) years later when my mother passed after 88 years of life we had engaged in meaningful conversations at both logistical and relationship levels. On my way to her “death bed”, I was critically injured in automobile accident. While I was unable to make it to her deathbed or her funeral, I am grateful that we had “finished our business” due to the rich conversations we shared during her final months. There was closure, peace and ease. My wife’s parents have both passed during the past two years. In both cases we engaged in meaningful conversations regarding their end-of-life desires. While there was sorrow, sadness and a great sense of lose with their passing, there has been a closure, peace and ease in latter three deaths. While we were not aware of The Conversation Project prior to their deaths, we did create our own organic end-of-life conversations. I urge anyone anticipating the passage of their elders through the Great End-of-Life Mystery to use the The Conversation Project to initiate and create conversations that can deepen and strengthen relationships with loved ones.
LIFE REFLECTION CONVERSATIONS
The Conversation Project also can be a gateway experience to additional conversation that are both fun and meaningful with elders to reflect upon their lives. During our development and testing of the conversation game, Talk In A Box, Nancy and I were struck by the impact of asking elders and friends reflective questions about their lives. We learned of stories, experiences, choices and values that prompted laughter and tears. I invite you to expand The Conversation Project experience by engaging with elders in reflective conversations about their lives.
Listed below are several reflective questions that I invite you to ask elders and friends. You are likely to learn things that you never knew. Enjoy.
1. If you had known then what you know now, what would you have done differently?
2. What is the question you would love to answer, that you are never or rarely asked?
3. What were two or three of the choices you made that changed your life?
4. What were two or three of my most treasured possessions as a child?
5. What is one of your life goals that you have not yet realized?
6. Who were three people who significantly impacted your life?
7. What “fork in the road” was a significant turning point in your life?
8. What global or national event will your always remember where you were when it occurred? How did that event change your life?
9. If you could spend a day alone with anyone from your life (living or dead), whom would you choose?
10. Who and/or what has brought joy to your life?
11. What “bad news” in your life later turned out to be “good news”?
12. What have you recently witnessed or experienced that gives you a sense of hope for the future?