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The Conversation: How would you like to be walked home?

“We are all just walking each other home.” ~Ram Dass

“Norma, there is a chance what the doctor has to say at your appointment will not be good news,” Ramie calmly said as we ate lunch together.

It truly was the eleventh hour in our minds: Leo was dying in a dimly lit hospice suite and Norma was scheduled to receive her test results from the OB/GYN in three days. It was time to ask some important questions.

Talking to a loved one about their mortality — no matter their current health status — might be a fairly easy proposition for some; for most, however,

it can prove to be daunting.

Every visit over fifteen summers we struggled to have "the conversation" with Tim's parents about how they would like their last years and days to play out. Despite our best intentions, Leo died before we could ever have this essential discussion with the two of them.

There were so many unanswered questions. What was important to them? What was unresolved? What still gave them joy? What if one of them died before the other? How did they want to be cared for in their last days? How did they want to be remembered?

As their ninth decade of life creeped closer, these questions became the proverbial elephants in the room. As the conversation was put off for yet another year, it became even more difficult to summon the courage to bring it up the next time — until we could no longer avoid it.

“I know one thing, if they tell me I have cancer I don’t want any of that chemo, no poking and prodding — no treatment. I’ll just leave it be. What do you think about that, Timmy?” The clarity in Norma’s voice was heartening, and we finally felt like the door had cracked open for further discussion.

The ongoing conversations during Norma’s next fourteen months served as our compass as we navigated through her inspiring end-of-life journey. We were sure to also have the supportive legal documents for absolute clarity of her wishes.

Now, our greatest hope is that Miss Norma's story will help other families have an easier time broaching this difficult subject. Although we know that driving your loved one around in a motor home at the end of their life is not the answer for everyone, we have to ask, “How would you like to be walked home?"