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I stood in the hospital emergency
room with my mother, the ER doctor and the social
worker. My mother and I brought my 91-year-old
grandfather in just a few hours earlier. The next few
words spoken by the social worker immediately jerked me
back seven years to the night my father passed away. The
same hospital, the same little group: my mom, and I with
two healthcare professionals and the very same question,
“Does he have a Living Will?”
I know the implication of these words was not lost on my
mother either. My Dad was literally on his deathbed,
having battled Multiple Myeloma for the previous year
and a half. He made his wishes about his end of life
decision known, but we could never actually face seeing
them become real on paper. Somehow, those papers were
never signed. However, I slipped a copy into my back
pocket, finally realizing that perhaps we would need to
face the inevitable only hours before his passing. My
mother came to a similar realization. She asked me if I
knew where we could find a copy of his living will. I’ll
never forget the expression on her face when I produced
the papers on the spot. I still don’t know if it was
surprise or horror. Perhaps a combination of the two.
She signed as my father’s power of attorney and perhaps
realizing that the last piece was in place for his
departure, my father passed away within the hour.
So, you would think that seven years later, we, of all
people, would be prepared to answer that same question.
After having created a magazine for caregivers, after
convincing people through national television and radio
shows across the nation to have living wills in place
for themselves and their loved ones, after being
caregivers for my grandparents for the past four years,
you’d think we would be prepared. You would think that
we would have microfiche copies of my grandfather’s
living will in each of our wallets. You’d think that the
papers would have been signed years ago, since, not
unlike my father my grandfather had also let his wishes
regarding his end of life be known.
The truth is, we looked at each other as if the past
seven year gap in time was mere minutes and we suffered
the same agony we suffered all those years ago.
Thankfully, we didn’t need the papers, my grandfather is
If I can wish anything beyond health and happiness for
you and your loved ones, it is that you take the time to
have your loved one’s Living Will, Healthcare Surrogate
and DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) wishes legally represented.
And for the sake of your loved ones, fill out these
forms for yourself, as well. Then, hopefully, all of
your déjŕ vu’s will be sweet ones.
From the book: The Fearless Caregiver