Nelson Mandela does not have a living will. The final days of this man’s extraordinary life involve an array of medical devices that keep him alive, but not living. I don’t know if that was his wish, and apparently no one else does either, because he didn’t make his wishes clear before he lost the ability to communicate.
That’s not how I want to spend my final days, and I have made it explicitly clear in legal documents and in discussions with my family. I want to die as my father-in-law did last year. He put up a good fight against liver cancer, but when it became clear it was a fight he couldn’t win, treatment stopped. Instead of feeling sick every day from chemotherapy that might have given him a few extra months, he wanted to enjoy his last days as fully as possible.
He did. There is a video of him at home playing the piano and singing just a week before he passed. I spent time with him and one of his sons in those final days laughing, joking and teasing the way guys do. He was surrounded by family and supported by a wonderful hospice nurse who helped us all travel with him to his peaceful end, in his home, in his bed.
If you haven’t made your wishes clear, and aren’t sure what happens in the hospital when you don’t, a group of doctors has put up a web site that will guide you through the procedures that may be used to prolong your life. Talk to your doctor. Talk with your family. Prepare a living will.
Death comes to us all, but there are choices we can make about how we come to death.