I originally wrote this a couple of years ago however, this year, it feels even more accurate.
With each passing year, we are just a bit closer to our end. For many, this is a morbid, terrifying thought. For me, it brings comfort.
I have recently taken an interest in palliative care, patient empowerment, and our ability to view our days and end in a more meaningful – dare I say – positive light. Atul Gawande, most notably in his book Being Mortal, asks us to reevaluate life and redefine purpose and happiness. For patients who have received a fatal diagnosis, this means identifying how they want to spend their final years, months and days. Do they want to travel? Read more? Enjoy ice cream? Whatever the goals and dreams, a diagnosis, in its purest form, should lead to a period of reckoning – what should my last days on earth look like and how can medical intervention support that? This introspection is not encouraged enough in the medical community and we have a long way to go in communicating, educating and empowering both the patient and physician. But, if we really want to transform the conversation of death and end of life design, we must reconsider life.
From the moment we were born, we have all been dying. Yet, most of us live life forgetting to evaluate it. Instead of controlling our life and the choices we make, we let life control us. Well, that doesn’t seem inspiring.
As we enter 2021, let us all consider death as a way to motivate life. Set goals that are measurable and specific. Make a daily or weekly schedule that encourages you to find time for the things that are important. Define happiness for you and work hard to build a structure that supports it.
Helping to design your desired end of life must start with finding purpose in your entire life. Join me in a fulfilling, happy and healthy 2021!