How our story closes matters: words that rang so clearly in my ears.  These words came from Dr. Gawande after sharing the personal journey of his own father’s story closing, and the stories of his patients and other physicians’ patients.  Dr. Gawande, a New York writer and Boston surgeon, explores the relationships doctors have with patients at the end-of-life through a Frontline documentary entitled “Being Mortal.” In addition, Dr. Atul Gawande also penned a book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.   Deeply and profoundly moving, both the documentary and the book lead us to the importance of having these conversation about our end-of-life choices.

A nationwide public awareness campaign emphasizing the significance of talking about end-of-life preferences and goals with our loved ones and medical professionals, was undertaken by the Hospice Foundation of American (HFA.)  As part of the campaign, they made widely available, copies of “Being Mortal.”  A community screening of the documentary was recently held in Pullman through a collaborative effort between Friends of Hospice, Pullman Regional Hospital, Palouse Medical, and Pullman Family Medicine.  Following the showing there was a heartfelt panel discussion that included Dr. Ben Adkins, Dr. Rod Story, Jessica Rivers, Sara Hawreliak, and Tricia Grantham, advance care planning facilitators.

Tender, poignant moments of memory and insight filled the room.  As we sat there alone in our thoughts, collectively connected by the gentle presence of one another, we remembered deaths of dear family and friends and what we learned from them.   We found ourselves inspired to consider what type of care would be right for us as we neared the end of our lives.  Looking at the memory of loved ones shining in eyes of those around us, we understood the inherent nature of our humanity.  We were not alone in this experience.

A range of words from those attending described the evening: informed, touched, reflective, insightful, denial, sacred, regret, tearful, awareness, refreshing, enlightened, sad, ready, eye-opening, gratitude, relieved, informed, empowered, and motivated.  There was comfort in knowing, although not easy to haves these conversations, they were deeply meaningful.  And when it came to starting these conversations with our families, there was help right here locally.  Through certified advance care planning facilitators and healthcare providers who could help us discern our own guideposts for care.

Guideposts For Our Care, words Dr. Gawande used when referring to his father’s decisions for care after discovering a tumor on his spinal cord.   The guideposts for his medical care were based upon what living well looked like for him.  He wanted to remain social.  And for the son, Dr. Gawande, this came from who his dad was as a person.  And who he’d always been.  His father remained in control by establishing his priorities for having a good life, and then chose his care based upon those priorities.   Those priorities gave comfort to the family while giving clear direction to the doctors when  care decisions needed to be made.

From inspiration to action.  Schedule a one-on-one facilitation to start the meaningful conversation about what living well looks like for you and how it guides your choices for care.  Facilitators can meet you in your home, at the Friends of Hospice office, Pullman Regional Hospital, or Whitman Hospital and Medical Center.  To schedule an appointment contact Annie Pillers – Friends of Hospice, 332-4414, Jessica Rivers – Pullman Regional Hospital, 336-7559, or Kathleen Haley – Whitman Hospital and Medical Center at 397-3435 ext 354.   Attend the next community screening of “Being Mortal,” Thursday May 25th from 6 pm to 8 pm at the Colfax High School Auditorium.

How our story closes matters. 

Friends of Hospice offers free, confidential advance care planning facilitations with Honoring Choices ® certified facilitators in the community.  To schedule an appointment please call (509) 332-4414 or email  Photo courtesy of CCO, with no changes made, Au-Q-Eprapah Eagle CampfireCircle.