A Perfect Time to Talk

A Perfect Time to Talk

The holiday season is well underway, and many of us will be visiting with family and close friends in the coming days. While you have your loved ones gathered near, why not take advantage of the time get everyone on the same page about your end-of-life desires?

It doesn’t have to be a depressing conversation! In fact, the more matter-of-fact it is, the better. You can start out by just saying, “Hey, while I’ve got you here, I wanted to let you know what I’ve got in place if something happens to me.” It’s especially important to have this conversation if you’ve named one of your children or a close friend as a Health Care Agent or have given them Durable Power of Attorney (and if you don’t have these in place, that’s another article!).

There are a few things they need to know:

  • What paperwork you have completed and where to find it—it’s helpful to have copies of all this in one place, and to provide a set to those people named in any of your documents.
  • Who is listed in what role (executor, health care agent, etc.), and how to contact them—again, this information would ideally be with your paperwork.
  • What your wishes are around life-sustaining treatment. In theory you’ve covered all this in your Health Care Directive, but it doesn’t hurt to say it out loud. It can be enormously comforting in an emergency for your Health Care Agent to have had this conversation with you directly and to feel that they are truly adhering to your wishes.

What if the people closest to you don’t want to talk about the possibility of you dying, or are reluctant to let you talk about it? In these cases it can be useful to use a book, a film, or a game as a starting point.

There’s and excellent book called The Conversation, by Dr. Angelo Volandes that illustrates some end-of-life case studies, covers the paperwork one should have in place, and provides a lot of good resources, including conversational topics ( such as “what is most important to you if your time is limited?”) This book is worth purchasing for the appendices alone.

Several years ago a healthcare professional and a filmmaker joined forces to produce an award-winning documentary that in their words, “intimately explores the American struggle with communication and preparation for end-of-life and seeks to inspire dialogue between patient and doctor, husband and wife, parent and child, minister and parishioner.” Maybe instead of watching White Christmas  for the 100th time, you could try screening  Consider the Conversation: A Documentary on a Taboo Subject this holiday season!

Finally if your friends and family enjoy boardgames, consider purchasing “Hello,”  a game designed to be an easy, nonthreatening way to start a conversation with your family and friends about what matters most to you. It can be found at https://shop.commonpractice.com/collections/all/products/hello-game. The questions range from the practical (” what would you like to have done with your body when you die?”) to the more thought-provoking (” if you could control only one thing about the place where you spend your last hours of life, what would it be?”). However you start the conversation, please consider having it this holiday season! Peace of mind is a wonderful present.

Carrie Andrews


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