The other day I had a very interesting conversation with a woman I know. It concerned a man who had died suddenly: he lost consciousness with a cardiac event and died a few hours later, never having awoken. The woman referred to this as a ‘beautiful death’. When I commented that I thought it might be more difficult for the family and friends that surround the deceased than an anticipated death, my companion replied that it was the ideal death for the person dying. This made me reflect on palliative care and my own thoughts and wishes.
I have had numerous conversations over the years with my life partner about our respective deaths. I hope to be well taken care of (as I have seen for others), not to suffer and would prefer to have some sense that it is imminent in order to say goodbye properly. I hope, of course, that my death will not come for some time. That said, I do have a will and have expressed my medical wishes to my family in case I cannot make decisions.
As palliative care professionals, how many of us have our wills up to date and have expressed our wishes to those around us? How many of us have done our own advance care planning? It is important that we are prepared ourselves. I will be revisiting all my conversations and legal paperwork in the next few days and months because of this conversation. I am grateful to the woman for this thought-provoking conversation about a beautiful death. We all need to reflect on what that looks like for each of us and prepare as much as possible.