By Steven K. Huprich, PhD, LP
When I began working at the University of Detroit Mercy, the department chair asked if I would teach an undergraduate course on death and dying. Strangely, I did not run out of her office, which could have been a reasonable thing to do when thinking about 20 year-olds’ reactions to their own mortality.
Instead, I rather quickly said it was something I might be interested in. Maybe it was because I turned 50 earlier that year, and I realized that I was quite well past the half-way point. Maybe it was because many people dear to me have died, and I wanted to keep working through my own feelings of loss. Or, maybe it was a spiritual calling. I think it was all of these.
To teach this class well, I wanted to bring in the experts—a physician, a coroner, a medical ethicist, experts in various religious faith traditions (thank you, Father Bill!), an expert on suicide, and individuals from Hospice of Michigan. I also asked students to read several books, including Being Mortal, by cancer surgeon Dr. Atul Gawande, whose book was on the New York Times’ best seller list for weeks.
Quite serendipitously, speakers from Hospice of Michigan showed a one-hour documentary hosted by Dr. Gawande that was based upon his book.
Gawande’s book (and documentary) are not about hospice. Instead, they are about how people think about and plan for the final stages of their lives, from where to live, what kind of care they receive, and what kinds of medical decisions they will make. Questions that were raised included: How and where do I want to spend my last years? How much effort do I want to put into “treatment” if I ultimately am going to die from a disease? How do I want to best help my parents and other family members during these tough times? Most centrally, however, it is not that these are decisions that we should consider when they arise; they should be considered now. Our lives can turn in a moment’s notice, but few of us are truly prepared.
To facilitate a consideration of these issues, CCC’s Parish Health Committee and Hospice of Michigan will present the one-hour documentary, Being Mortal, on Sunday, April 22. The event will begin promptly at 11:45 AM, with a panel discussion to follow. A light lunch will be served beforehand.
I personally want to invite you and your loved ones to attend this very important event. Do not let bad news force you into difficult decisions. Think about these matters now, and make your ending as good as the rest of your life.