As a church staff, we recently read through Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande. It’s a wonderful book with a surprisingly abundant wealth of pastoral implications. After reading, I compiled a list of pastoral questions for use in ministry with the aging and the ill, but these are good questions to use in everyday human relationships as well. This section of questions deals with conversations about mortality.
Do you think about your own mortality?
Has society helped or hindered how you think about your own mortality? How so?
How do you feel when you think or talk about what the end of your life might look like?
What makes you feel scared/sad/angry/anxious/etc. about it?
Can you tell me more about that?
What have you envisioned the end of your life looking like? Where would you like to be, ideally, when you die? Who would you like around you?
Have you expressed those wishes to you loved ones? Are you willing to give on some of those things if it ends up being what’s best for you?
What would you consider absolute non-negotiables when you think about what you want your last years to look like?
What would you consider absolute non-negotiables when you think about what you want the end of your life to look like?
Is your family as involved in helping to plan your last days as you’d hoped they would be? Is it just enough, not enough, or intrusively more than enough?
Is this something you would be willing to have a conversation with your family about?
How does it feel to think about having that conversation with them?
In a time when people are afraid of aging, of mortality and death; in a time when our older adults feel useless, let’s recognize that they aren’t! Help the aging in your life to age well, to have their desires respected to the most appropriate best of their abilities.
Listen to your elders tell their stories, help them express their needs and wants and listen. Value them, pray for them and have a conversation with them.