By Paul Malley
April 14, 2021
Some things transcend time, place, and circumstance. Most people, even if they’ve never told anyone, would want to die in their own home, in their own bed, surrounded by people they love. That’s exactly what happened this week inside Windsor Castle as Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, approached the end of his life. He reportedly expressed a “fervent wish to die peacefully at home… in his own bed.” He also relayed that he “didn’t want any fuss,” but still wanted to do things “his way until the end.”
Does that sound much different from what you’d want for yourself? Or what you’d expect to hear from your grandfather?
Something important and natural is happening in these days of national mourning in the United Kingdom. People are remembering. They’re recalling the story of a life. They’re asking the existential questions to recall what Prince Philip’s life was all about, and the themes of duty and service seem constant, along with memories of gaffes and blunders. The people who knew him, or knew of him, are now recollecting the man with the entirety of his life in the history books.
Is that different from what happens in our own family when someone dies?
For some people, the very thought of these questions about “why am I here?” or “what have I accomplished?” create a sense of unease. If that sounds like you, don’t worry, you’re in good company. And Aging with Dignity is offering a new video series to help navigate through these questions, along with other important things like expressing love or forgiveness to those close to us.
Speaking of forgiveness, I think we can all be grateful that our family disagreements and divisions are not likely to be subjects of a major Oprah television special. Even with the magnitude and short time since Prince Harry and Megan Markle told their story, and by all reports rocked the House of Windsor, notice what is happening this week. Harry has returned to his ancestral home. He is honoring his grandfather by his presence. Who knows what will be said behind closed doors. It seems, however, that strained parts of the family are putting aside differences to be together.
Is that different from what happens in our own family? Or, more to the point, is it different from what we hope would happen in our own family?
For some, this may provoke fear or dread about the future, especially thinking of a time when they are no longer able to influence the outcomes around them. These are real concerns that get to the heart of what we believe is most important in life, our family relationships, and our spirituality (also addressed in this video).
There’s good news. You can have a say in what happens when you’re very sick – both regarding who makes decisions on your behalf, and what types of medical treatment you receive. You can also leave instructions – a trail or a map – so the people who are closest to you will know what is most important to you (expressions of love, forgiveness, how you want to be remembered, what you want your loved ones to know).
National Healthcare Decisions Day
Nearly 40 million Americans (and people around the world) have used the Five Wishes advance directive to convey what’s most important to them. This National Healthcare Decisions Day (April 16) is the perfect time to take this easy and important step. Use it for yourself, provide it to those who you love, and receive the gift of peace-of-mind.
We can’t all die in a castle. But we can all approach the end with dignity, if we take the simple steps to leave a plan like Five Wishes in place.