You’ve no doubt noticed that American culture uses militaristic terms to rally us to support an idea or a program. Our politicians over the decades have waged war on countless non-military fronts: War on Drugs, War on Poverty, and War on Terror. On the healthcare front, health professionals, disease-related organizations, and individuals want us to “battle” cancer and “fight” heart disease (among others). In a book I’m reading, I recently came across the phrase “war on cancer”.
For each of us, the “battle” is and will be different. Some of us will wage war against chronic physical illnesses. Some will “fight” depression or other mental illnesses. We “combat” addictions and the demons that accompany them. [I wonder if this militaristic approach to illness exists in cultures outside our own.] I remember asking my uncle how much “fight” he had left in him when he was deciding whether or not to go through a double-leg amputation. Each of us faces a personal war against an enemy that will eventually claim us all. For all of this war-waging, battling and fighting, we cannot outlast our ultimate “enemy”: DEATH. I often read obituaries that report a loved one had “fought the good fight” or had a “valiant battle against ‘X’”. There seems to be no “giving up” when embroiled in a War on Death.
Yet, many of us want, even expect, a peaceful death. Nearly 90% of Americans say they want to die in their own home, surrounded by family and friends, and free of pain. At some point amid all the combat, each of us will determine that we are ready to lay down our weapons and opt for peace.
And what might that peace look like? Energy and resources expended in war can be re-focused on people and things we love rather than symptoms and side effects. Peace might mean sleeping in our own bed free of tubes, wires and beeping machines. It might mean no more painful road trips to treatments that make us too sick to enjoy time or a meal with our family. It might mean that our children will not be forced to make the ultimate decisions about how or when we die. It might also mean that we have given ourselves time: to get all of our affairs in order, to help our family carry out our final wishes, and, to play with grandchildren, snuggle with pets, hold hands with spouses, share love, reminisce, and say goodbyes.
In most all military wars, leaders plan their exit strategy well before the battle begins. We could “as good leaders” do the same. Long before we decide to stop fighting, we could make our plan for peace. Early conversations about our plans for war and peace can help make the transition between the two more gentle for us, for those providing our care, and for our loved ones. Deciding what kind of war we want to wage and how long we will (can) wage it can help ready us and our family for the peace that will follow.
Caring Choices can help you make plans for peace when the battle ends. Peace for yourself. Peace for your family.
(c) 2014 Caring Choices