Advance Medical Directive (aka Living Will)

This week I drafted, and today signed along with two witnesses, a living will.  It has been on my “to do” list for a good 20 years, and I have been carrying in my wallet a card from the Society for the Right to Die (which no longer appears to exist) saying that I have a living will in my possession.  Two things led me to get it done at this time.  The first is my deeply held belief that privileging hospice is an important and mostly missing element of the health care debate.  The second was witnessing a dear friend have the last few months of her life being attached to machines and receiving ever more painful medical intervention even with end stage cancer.  I know that is not what I want.

This society gives you the medical care, though, whether you want it or not, if you do not say something loudly, clearly, and with technically the right jargon.  I could not wait any longer.  I did the research, drafted the document, spoke to my family and friends, and finally did it.  It is hard to do.  I am still anxious that I did not do it right or that in the end, should it come where the living will would be necessary, my wishes will not be honored.  It is hard to think about death, illness, and accident.  It is scary to approach legal documents that are so fraught with political and religious weight (a friend cautioned me to make sure I have lots of copies because of his experience of a nurse, who because of her religious doctrine, repeatedly “lost” copies of  his mother’s directives when she was dying from advanced Altzheimer’s.)

The yoga helps me think about these things with some measure of equanimity.  I have even heard teachers say that the whole reason for a steady practice is to be prepared for death and dying, so that we can go peacefully, comfortable with both our life and our death.  Part of the yoga off the mat, in this regard, is recognizing how society is likely to behave, and what we need to do to be healthy within the confines of society.

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