I’m a wife to my husband Bryan and a mother to three young daughters, Claire, Paige and Sophie. Like many others, I’m also a sister, daughter and friend; I have always considered myself a planner, and fairly organized (maybe not so much after our third daughter but I know those traits are still hiding in there somewhere!). My husband and I work in health care, and more so, I worked in long term care for 7 years right out of grad school so I saw firsthand, the impact advance care planning had on family dynamics, both the great outcomes and the not so good ones.
So, what should have come naturally, to plan, I found myself dragging my feet when it came to filling out my advance care directive. No one wants to fill out something that is scary, unknown, and quite frankly depressing. Even reading quotes like “you’re never promised tomorrow, so live today like it’s your last” would make my stomach turn, simply because I knew it was true, but something I didn’t want to think about.
I thought of every reason in the book to set this aside, I told myself we needed a lawyer to help fill this out (not true) or that this is something people fill out when they are much older (nope not true either). In fact, I couldn’t have been more wrong in my thoughts for not filling one out. When I became an official ‘adult’ at age 18, that is actually when I should have been filling one out, I shouldn’t have waited until I was 33 years old, married and three children. I look back and think, gosh, I am so lucky nothing happened to me during that time without an advance directive in place, what a mess I would have put my family through.
Bryan and I knew deep down this was something we had to get done, but I realized, for me, I needed to look at it in a different light. If something would tragically happen to me, the last thing I wanted my husband or family to stress about was honoring my wishes. I was well aware that by not having an advance care directive I would be placing tremendous responsibility on my family, and I was absolutely certain I wasn’t going to do that to them. I decided I was going to complete my advance directive as a gift to them. I have zero control over every day I get to live (or whether I want to read similar related quotes….), but I DO have control over making something easier for my family when they will already be in emotional turmoil.
My husband and I sought out an advance care directive that was extremely straight forward, not daunting, and easy to fill out. It makes it easier to know this document is fluid, and as we go through changes in our life, we will make changes to this document too. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a breeze, as the topic is not a fun thing to discuss, but in the end, it felt good to get our thoughts and wishes down on paper.
Since we were on a roll with being such responsible adults (insert sarcasm), we also met with a lawyer to complete our will. With both our advance directives and will completed, we felt the greatest feeling of relief and accomplishment. We finally had a plan in place for one another and our loved ones.
Although it is not an easy thing to talk about, I encourage everyone 18 years of age and older to fill out an advance care directive and when you’re done, encourage your loved ones to fill one out too, there is absolutely nothing to lose but rather so much to gain. I didn’t do it for me, I did it for my husband Bryan and daughters Claire, Paige and Sophie, because they are my entire world. I would like to think being a mother and wife won’t stop, even in times of tragedy. I want Bryan and our girls to know that I did my best to continue taking care of them, by hopefully making things a little easier, even in the hardest times when I wasn’t able to speak for myself.