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Closure.org Blog

Purple Sweatpants

By Stefanie Small

The Chevra Kadisha (Ritual Burial society) has been part of my life for as far back as I can recall. My parents are longtime members of this volunteer group of people who, as part of the Jewish tradition, prepare the deceased for burial. The members wash the person and dress them in shrouds and ready them for the final leg of this life’s journey. It is considered a “chesed shel emet,” a kindness of truth, done for no other reward than the knowledge that someone will do it for them when the time comes.

I became a member of the society about 10 years ago and have never looked back. It is a life altering experience to be part of the conclusion of a person’s existence in our world. The room where the work is done is quiet, almost reverent, as we know that we are the last to wash and dress this person. We are the final people to see the whole person as we place them in their caskets. And it is peaceful and hopeful and a reminder that life is precious.

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Written by robots= on September 23rd, 2011 at
Tagged with: None

Not Invincible

By Mike Light

We were all winded and drenched in sweat, having just completed a high-intensity workout on a particularly humid June evening.  Lying on the grass, recovering, we began to discuss a common topic for us: nutrition and the best place to buy fresh produce.  Our workout group is composed of six recent college graduates.  We are educated, socially informed, and try to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible.  But while we care deeply about our own wellbeing, in an effort to prolong our lives, we never took the time to think about the end of our lives.

Since I started working on the Closure Intiative, I have become more enlightened to end-of-life issues.  Even though I volunteer as an Emergency Medical Technician and have helped patients not much older than myself who were seriously ill or injured, it never struck me that someday I could be in a terrible car wreck, or fall seriously ill.  Yet, more than 30,000 Americans 15 to 24 years old die every year, over half from unintentional injury. In the age of modern medicine, many of these deaths are preceded by invasive interventions and aggressive procedures.  So, lying on the grass, I asked my workout buddies if they had ever considered end-of-life care.  What kind of treatment would they want if they wound up in the hospital?  Would they want to be on a breathing machine? Did their families know their values and their wishes?  Were these wishes in writing? They each had strong opinions about what level of aggressive care they would want to receive and how much quality of life they were willing to sacrifice for an attempted treatment.  Perhaps not surprisingly, they did not have their wishes spelled out in writing, nor had they had serious discussions about the topic with their loved ones – the people who would have to make decisions on their behalf if they became incapacitated.

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Written by robots= on September 15th, 2011 at
Tagged with: None

The Wisdom of My Elders

By Adam Conway

During the past year I have had the opportunity to say goodbye to my father’s mother and my mother’s father.  They each died peacefully in their homes with family standing by, and I felt lucky to speak to them in their last hours.  From their perspectives, a long, fulfilling, and successful life was at its end.  My Grandfather had served in World War II, opened and maintained a successful business, and raised a family.  My Grandmother, just months shy of 100 years old, had seen more changes in the world than I can begin to understand. 

Despite the fact that each of them had been aware for many years that they would likely pass on soon, they each had chosen to communicate with my generation in a way that glossed over illness and frailty, although when I asked my grandma for advice last year, she said “Don’t get this old! Then again, I don’t much care for the alternative!” 

This was really the only clear opening I had to speak about her wishes for the end of her life, and my feelings about it, but of course like most of us, and particularly young people, I was unprepared to have such a discussion.  I regret this, of course, and should have trusted her to help me through it.  At the time of her death, she had more experience with loved ones dying than anyone else I knew, since she had long outlived almost everyone she knew, and could have been a wealth of knowledge on the subject.

This experience has made me aware of the need to learn about the options that are available and for planning in advance, both for myself and my family members.  Despite the emotional difficulty of such discussions, I realize now that I must take advantage of the wealth of information held by people like my grandmother: wise people who have had more experiences than I can possibly imagine. 

Written by robots= on September 1st, 2011 at
Tagged with: advance planning, planning in advance