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Has Death Come Out of the Closet?

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It has been said that the two things you can’t escape in life is death and taxes. Have you noticed, however, that there is lots of talk about taxes yet little discussion about death? But that may all be changing.

In the past month, or so, I have come in contact with three ways the conversation around death and dying issues are changing. There are now death dinners, a new book on Changing the Way We Die, and a recent game called My Gift of Grace to encourage death-related discussions.

A recent article in USA Today discussed several organizations that help start tough end-of-life conversations. One has the unusual name of “Let’s Have Dinner and Talk about Death.” The other, “The Conversation Project,” encourages people to start the New Year with discussions focusing on demise. And the third, “Engage with Grace,” promotes discussions of end-of-life issues around the Thanksgiving table.

Almost half of all Americans now die in hospice care, many of them at home. Hospice has come a long way since I was a volunteer almost thirty-years ago. At that time, many people had no idea what hospice was. In fact, one audience member, way back then, was upset when the hospice speaker starting about death and dying issues. The woman said she came to hear a lecture about “hot spice.”

So for people like that, and others who are not sure what hospice is, or does, it is cause for celebration that a recently published book titled Changing the Way We Die (Viva Editions, 2013), clearly looks at the hospice landscape with encouraging stories from patients, families and caregivers.

The book continues the end-of-life discussion and helps everyone who reads it avoid months of suffering by providing thoughts on a better way to deal with death-related issues.

A third way the conversation about death and dying has opened up is with a new game, yes a game, called “My Gift of Grace.” Each of the 47 cards asks such thought provoking questions as: “If you were diagnosed with a terminal disease, who would you turn to for advice.” “If you could pick anyone to sing at your memorial service who would it be and, what would they sing?” “What is the last meal you want to eat and who would you like to join you?”

All three of the above resources are valuable tools that can help us to come to terms with the fact that none of us are going to get out of this life alive.



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