Ripples of love: goal of end-of-life family conversation

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, February 22, 2018

Author/speaker Rick Bergh emphasizes the legacy of love as the ultimate goal of end-of-life conversations with whole family. Graphic from supplied images

“The ripples created by your end of life will help carry your family into the future,” says Rick Bergh, celebrated author/lecturer in end-of-life issues. But just what kind of ripples? Peaceful or turbulent? Family-affirming or destructive?

The choice is up to us, the former pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Cochrane, says. Rick will be expanding on how to make it a peaceful, family-affirming journey at a workshop this Friday and Saturday at Cochrane Alliance Church. His topic: “Why the Last Chapter of Your Life is Important to Consider Now.”

If my recent conversations around Cochrane café tables are any indication, this topic is certainly timely. Just the other day several of my coffee companions were lamenting how families they know are being torn apart by jealousies and feuds over divvying up estates. They were concerned to do the right things in their own lives to leave a legacy of blessings and not curses.

To head off such rancour, legacy-planning must begin now, Rick says, and must include conversations with your loved ones, if possible, while you’re still hale and hearty.

Your dying and death are not just about you – your last chapter has to include others. What you leave ahead is more important than what you leave behind. The ripples created by your end of life will help carry your family into the future and enable them to experience joy, even without you physically present. This should be your goal. The question is this: ‘How will you include your loved ones in your end of life in a way that positively impacts their future?’

“Why wait till the end of life for these things to happen? Make them happen NOW!”

But where to begin? Bring the whole family together and explain to them: “I would like it if you could help me put together a plan that would honour the final chapter of my life – a plan that each of you would know about and honour on my behalf.”

The goal is to get everyone on board by sharing one’s own wishes and reasons, getting constructive feedback, and making sure no one is left out in the process. “I want to be sure I have done everything possible so that no scars are left behind after I am gone because of misunderstandings,” he says.

Rick stresses five practical areas that, with legal advice, should be dealt with in this conversation: will, enduring power of attorney, personal directive, supported decision-making authorization, and funeral.

But all of this is a preamble to the deeper conversation, he says. “Why don’t we tell people that we love them?”

And why such conversations now? “You might not have an opportunity to say ‘I love you’ later,’” Rick says.

And in that legacy of love we find the ultimate ripple effect of affirmation and relationship that endures for generations to come, long after the casket is closed and the estate settled.

Thanks, Rick.


© 2018 Warren Harbeck

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