What is the Conversation Project?

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by Harriet P. Gross

Have you heard of The Conversation Project? It’s a movement to have us talk to our nearest and dearest about the world’s most sensitive topic:  death.

Please, don’t be turned off by this.  We all know that we’re mortal, and mortality is our end.  Faith may assure us of eternal life, but not here on earth.

The Conversation isn’t about dispersing your material assets to those who will live on after you.  Far more than that, it’s the chance to share with spouse, children and grandchildren, how you want to be treated as your life nears its inevitable end.

This is far more than a simple statement about not wanting to be kept “alive” by artificial means when nature has delivered a fatal message.  It’s our opportunity, yours and mine, when we finally face the sad but true fact that we have much more time to look back upon than we have to look forward to, to be open with ourselves and those closest to us.

The hospice movement, which really isn’t that old, shows us the way.  Its dedicated souls, with care for the terminal as their profession, excel in providing companionship and compassion.  I would hope not to be alone in my final days and hours and minutes; I would like to be comfortable, cared for and cared about.  To have someone I’ve loved hold my hand and whisper love into my ear.  I don’t know if I’ll hear that dear voice; the whisperer won’t know, either.  But that doesn’t matter.

Many years ago, I had a beloved Siamese cat, a feisty fellow with strong legs and a voice to match.  But over time, the voice muted; the legs weakened.  He stopped moving.  He stopped eating.  I made a bed of blankets for him in a comfortable corner and sat with him for hours each day until the moment when I recognized his inevitable. Then I called a friend to come and drive us to the vet, so I could hold him all the way, still wrapped in his soft blankets, warm and peaceful as I kept stroking his head.  When we arrived, I asked the vet if it was time for the dreaded “putting down.”  He opened the blankets, looked at my dear Siamese, and said “He has already put himself down.”  At that moment, I realized this was the way I would want to die: wrapped in a warm, soft blanket, with someone I loved stroking my head and whispering to me that everything was just as it should be.

That’s what the Conversation Project is all about.  Please, join in.  Google for more information. You will not live to regret it.

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