Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Randomness of Life

A woman’s life hangs in the balance, the result of the random act of a rock being thrown from an overpass.  A young American doctor contracts the Ebola virus while working to save Liberian victims of the same disease. Terry Schiavo.  Nancy Cruzan.  Karen Ann Quinlan.  Jahi McMath.

Random acts (whether of violence, accidents, or health crises) occur with lightning speed across our world with differing outcomes:  some people live, some die; others are in limbo in between life and death – fighting, struggling, coping, surviving.

Obviously, we can’t know when these random events will occur or to whom they will happen.  We could all let imaginations run wild contemplating the random events we might encounter.  That would likely drive us all a bit mad.

But when I read about people like those in the opening paragraph, I can’t help but see the opportunity for each of us to wonder what we would do if it were happening to us or someone we loved.  And not just wonder … but have real, honest, heart-and-soul-searching discussions with those we love.  Loved ones are more-often-than-not put in the position of making healthcare decisions on behalf of a loved one who cannot speak for herself/himself.

It is hard to imagine what one would do in countless situations.  Contemplating our own death can stir emotions we’d rather let unexplored.  But saving our loved ones from having to make heart-wrenching life-or-death decisions can be our last loving act regardless of which random event put us in that situation.

We lift up positive thoughts and healing prayers for those who are victims of random acts and for their families who are forced to face decisions they’d rather not.

Caring Choices hopes individuals and families will contemplate the randomness of life and begin conversations.  Making decisions while you are healthy may not seem appealing to many. Perhaps saving your loved ones from agonizing, fast-paced decision-making in times of a medical crisis may offer some motivation to start discussions.

High Dive

Way back in 1963, I can remember warm July summer afternoons like today. My family would take me along when going to a local swimming pool at an amusement park. I had been swimming for years having had YMCA lessons and growing up a block from a river. But there was a very strong attraction to the diving boards at big swimming pools. It hadn’t been until this day that I finally made the choice to try to jump off. I practiced on the low board for a while. It was a perfect day for this because there were not that many people in the pool yet. My earlier experience at another pool closer to my home had not gone so well.  Climbing the ladder took a few attempts before I made it to the top. Mostly the people in line behind me were girls and when I froze at the top it was far worse fear for me at the moment going forward across the board and jumping than admitting I “chickened out”. Climbing back down after making the others climb down behind me was not an option this time. Walking across that diving board was scary and I couldn’t help thinking I was about to walk-the-plank. I jumped.

And each time after was less frightening and scary. I knew the water wouldn’t do more than sting a little if you jumped in right. And eventually I was diving, doing flips and gainers just to feel that few seconds’ thrill of going into the water at that speed. Eventually I was able to convince others to take the “leap” themselves when I worked at one of those earlier pools as a Life Guard. Now it was easy for me to encourage people into taking that step past their fear to have a summer fun experience. And I did, whenever I would see those who had the same hesitation on going off the high dive I would escort them up and walk them through it. And if they still wanted to stop once on the top I would escort them back down. And more often than not they would return in a short time and want to try again. And I was never really that good of a diver. I just loved the water. And I loved jumping off the diving boards.

Today I find myself once more in the Life Guard role. There is no high dive now, no water, umbrellas or concession stand. It is just life, and the reality of time. But just like the story above, I had to face the frightening leap into another kind of pool. This pool was my friends, family and everyone around me who live their lives and dream the hope of good health, kindness and love. And as time goes by I have gained another confidence from climbing to the heights of emotion and helping Hospice patients and their families to share strength and  compassion to help them deal with the discussions and decisions at hand.

Caring Choices has taken the leap.  We are aware of how scary and frightening it can be to face the unknown. We are ready to offer the possibility for enriched dialog among people who care about and care for each other. Share your fears and concerns and often there is strength in knowing others have jumped before you and can understand.

© 2014 Caring Choices


We all make assumptions on a daily basis.  There are several definitions of “assume”:

      • to take for granted or without proof
      • to take upon oneself
      • to take over the duties or responsibilities of
      • to take on (a particular character, quality, mode of life, etc.)
      • to take on; be invested or endowed with

We assume the sun will rise and the earth will continue to rotate around it.  We assume we know something about a person based on the color of skin, religion, politics or lot in life.  We assume entitlements or rights.

When we leave our homes for work or play, we assume we will return safely.  When we say goodbye to family and friends, we assume we will see each other again.  When we say goodnight, we assume we will wake in the morning.

We assume positions, responsibility, offices, duties, control, obligations and characterizations.  We assume roles at work and within our families.  We assume.

There are also deep assumptions entrenched in the world of advance care planning and healthcare choices.  Inevitably, whenever we are talking about personal healthcare choices and decisions, someone will make this statement when asked if they have had a conversation or prepared documents:  “My [family member] knows what I want.”

That is one huge assumption!  How can anyone know what one wants if there is no conversation, no dialogue, no personal decision-making, no clearly-defined documentation?  Do we have the right to assume that our family members will make decisions for us?  Do we have the right to assume that our family members WANT to make decisions for us?

Assuming someone else can and will make healthcare decisions for us can force an undue burden on them psychologically, socially and physically.  Assuming that our children will take care of us is ill-conceived, especially if they live far away.  Assuming that loved ones know what we want without ever talking about options and choices is irresponsible.  People often say, “I don’t want to be a burden”.  And I get that.  But too often people ASSUME that loved ones will know what to do and when to do it.  When they don’t know and are forced to “guess”, that assumption becomes an enormous burden.

And you know what they say about assumptions (see title of this post).

Caring Choices can help alleviate the undue encumbrance of ill-placed assumptions.  Relieve the burden of assumptions by having conversations and making decisions while you are healthy with those you love.  Every day you put it off puts you one day closer to forcing loved ones to assume they know what you want.

(c) 2014 Caring Choices

Happy Fourth of July


Wow, here it is the weekend of Independence Day 2014! Featured on the back page of the local paper is a copy of “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America”. Foundation of our hope and dreams forLife, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…”  And as I once more read this most famous of American documents, I could not help but wonder why we do not incorporate the same level of foresight into our lives from birth.  Our founding fathers prepared for us, in this Declaration of Independence, a course of action in the event of any form of Government becoming “destructive.”  They also used some weighty words that can be easily applied to advance care planning.

Is there not also an equal threat from trauma, disease or nature against our freedom, independence and well-being? Loss of freedom can take many forms. Where are the details of how our freedom is guarded with the expectation that our “unalienable rights” come with a “duty” not only of servicemen/women and public servants, but with the “prudence” of every responsible individual to look out for the comfort and safety of each other. Who of us would not “consent” to be at peace and in comfort?

Advance care planning is also a “Declaration of Independence”. This concept becomes another form of protection through which “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” As with any conflict in life, there are power struggles between opposite ideals.  Before one’s health succumbs to the “abdication,” it is important that we “solemnly publish and declare” what type of treatment and efforts we may or may not want.

Caring Choices respects “the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle” and the only way to accommodate compliance and overcome obstruction of our final wishes is to prepare our own declaration of independence when all other voices may fall silent. “To prove this, let Facts (your wishes) be submitted to a candid world…”

(c) 2014 Caring Choices