By Miriam Drake
It’s not morbid, it’s practical! Have you told your loved ones how you want to be cared for at the end of your life? Are you content and peaceful inside with respect to all of your relationships? Have you told these folks everything you want them to know before you leave this world? What does the phrase “dying well” actually mean to you? Does anyone know how you wish your body to be handled after it no longer functions: cremation, burial in Ecuador, or burial somewhere else?
These are questions about important aspects of living that most of us have not thought about in any real way. Talking about death is still a huge taboo in western societies. We fear the subject and avoid it completely. Ceremonies and rituals for the dying and after death are almost nonexistent. We behave as if death doesn’t exist and we expect to live forever. But it’s still there, the last phase of life, unexamined. Living abroad, it is vital that we address this topic and all of its practical implications head on so that when the time comes, our loved ones, healthcare professionals, and others know what to do to keep us comfortable and dying peacefully according to our wishes.
There is a simple tool, legal in the U.S. but unheard of in Ecuador, that you can use to inform all those caring for you as to what you want done as you begin the process of dying and afterward. This form is called the 5 Wishes. It is a marvelous tool for beginning to get acquainted with your own intimate thoughts, feelings and imagined needs with respect to the end of life, and the actual dying process.
The 5 Wishes form is included in the book, “Expat Medical Emergency Preparation Manual” and I highly recommend you get together with friends and complete your 5 Wishes forms together. Gather at your favorite restaurant or around someone’s dining table and start the process! Talking about each question out loud with others makes it real and helps you to make conscious practical decisions.
When everyone is engaged in the discussion, you may learn some new information or hear a story about something you might never have considered. In the past, when people completed the 5 Wishes form together in groups of 10-20, they told wonderful stories of death experiences and what it was like caring for dying friends or relatives. It wasn’t morbid, it was interesting and helpful.
This group process of sharing is uniquely therapeutic as well as practical. Talking about the possible answers to each question can help expand your thinking, defuse the fear of death, and prepare you in ways you never before considered. Once your wishes are down on paper, when the time comes, those caring for you will know exactly what you want and you can be at ease. Gather your group together soon, and get the 5 Wishes off your to-do list and into the hands of your powers of attorney and others!
When your time comes and you can no longer care for yourself or communicate, wouldn’t you feel better knowing that those looking after you already know what you want? Comfort and peace of mind are priceless, and the 5 Wishes can provide you with these.
You can find the 5 Wishes form and more information about how expats can prepare for medical emergencies and end of life in Cuenca, in the book, “Expat Medical Emergency Preparation Manual, Revised 2020 Edition”. This book is downloadable, and costs $15, payable via PayPal. Contact Miriam today at email@example.com to order your copy.