404 Death And Dying | Stephen Garrett

Changing the Face of Rural Hospice – Bringing Death Back Home

The 21st century is bringing new and different challenges to the work of hospice as evidenced by many changes in our healthcare system and in our communities. Some of these changes are:

Doctor Assisted Dying

Necessity for End of Life Planning and Paperwork

Increasing Rate of Death

Changing Demographics & Urban to Rural Migration

Health Care Budget Challenges and Nursing Shortages

Green Burial and Home Funerals Movements

The current annual death rate in British Columbia is 34, 633 (2014) and we are heading for 45,023 by 2030 and 54,928 by 2040. From a geographic vantage point, a rural city like Osoyoos will see 82% of its population over the age of 65 by 2030! (A recent study by the BC Business Council) If you drive from Vancouver to Salmon Arm you can actually see the migration of seniors from expensive Vancouver to rural BC – I did that drive last fall and was shocked to see how many seniors residences are being constructed!

BC’s annual healthcare budget is flirting with $17billion, 41% of the annual provincial budget, and research shows that we spend nearly half of our annual healthcare budget on 5% of the population in the last 10 months of their lives – that’s $8.5 billion dollars, much of it resulting from a lack of preparation, fore-thought, and our collective unwillingness to accept death. We are currently short 1,600 nurses and many doctors here in British Columbia and that is particularly evident in rural BC.

More and more, individuals and families are facing a complex and over-taxed healthcare system that is demanding extensive preparation from its patients. Given our death adverse tendencies here in North America it leaves close to 83% of our population horribly under prepared for their ultimate end of life. Not only are most Canadians unprepared for their ultimate death, many refuse to even talk with their families about it. As a result confusion, often chaos, emotional upset, and infighting tend to be commonplace as end of life approaches. Poor decisions are made under emotional duress and often cost the families and the system financially as well as emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

90% of British Columbians are choosing cremation and the Green Burial movement is building some ground support as the baby boomers intentionally want to leave much smaller footprints on the planet and reduce the cost of their funerals.

The environment hospice finds itself in currently is demanding new services and approaches as the needs of the people we serve have changed significantly from the inception of hospice some 50 years ago.

What would happen if rural hospices around British Columbia took on the challenge of preparing individuals, families, businesses, and local governments for the end of life? What would happen if hospices took on the role of end of life educators? What would happen if hospices got involved in end of life conversations well before dying and death were occurring?  How would this change of focus affect your hospice, board, staff, and volunteers?

Now this is not to say that this additional focus would replace all the amazing and important services hospice already offers to its community. It would mean though, additional resources be applied to the ‘proactive’ piece of early education and preparation of end of life paperwork for your community members –end of life outreach if you will.

What would happen if hospice became an even larger part of the solution?

Instead of our culture’s tradition of out sourcing the care of our dying and the care of our dead how could hospice participate in preparing families for home deaths and home funerals? Could hospice create additional revenue from workshops designed to help individuals prepare well for dying and death with dignity and grace? What would happen if hospice teamed up with the local municipal government and a nursery and co-created a green burial site from which they could earn revenue?

My colleague Don Morris and I would be happy and honored to work with your hospice, in your home community to answer these many questions and to create with you a working action plan to Change the Face of Your Hospice and help you prepare staff and volunteers to be community educators and trainers. This could look like a one-day workshop for your board and staff followed by a one-day public workshop to get the ball rolling.

We would also be happy to facilitate a Death Café in your community to begin the public conversation that needs to happen if we are to negotiate our way through these interesting times of dying, death, and disposition. We are also happy to meet with local newspapers, politician and business leaders to help spread the word – We can die better!

Loving Dying and Death Rituals from Vietnam

Other cultures do dying, death and post death way differently than we do here in Canada and the United States – Vietnam is one such culture.

Here is an excerpt from an email a friend visiting Vietnam sent to me the other day.

I will be attending a very sacred ceremony tomorrow night in the middle of the night at that. It is a tradition that when people pass away here (Vietnam), they are buried as normal but then when the body has decomposed about 5 to 8 years they are dug up and then the bones are washed and cleaned, then put into a smaller coffin about 2 ft by 1 ft. Then a reburial ceremony is held with all the family present and only very close family friends present so I feel honored to be allowed to witness this event.

I know it sounds a little creepy but as you know I am not that squeamish. 

The next day we gather for a memorial type service and all family friends are invited.

The service is for Huang’s mother who passed away 8 years ago and that is the main reason Huang is here this year as she was not able to be here 8 years ago when her mom died.”

Though this may sound very messy and squeamish to we North Americans, it shows us all how human and visceral some cultures are when it comes to death care and rituals. They really get their bodies into it which supports full and healthy grieving.

Thanks for the story Ursula.

Here is another piece of a story of the dying and death rituals from Vietnam from the web site; https://ethnomed.org/clinical/end-of-life/death-in-viet It demonstrates the natural and very human approach this Asian culture offers us examples of how we could take back some of the important and human rituals we have contracted out to professionals.

“When uncle took his last breath, the crying began gradually as reality started to sink in. All manners of grief were shown; from stoic solemnity to weeping, crying, sobbing and screaming. The only thing not acceptable would have been laughing. All the grandchildren were present and they all cried, even the eighteen-month old baby.

After a time, the children were taken away. The family bathed uncle’s body and dressed him in his best outfit. Much love and care was put into making him look presentable. This provided another chance for us to say goodbye.

Uncle was left lying in state at home for several hours to wait for an auspicious time and for the other close friends and relatives to arrive. The family took turns keeping a vigil over the body at all times. An altar was set with a photograph, candles, and incense. Relatives and friends who came to pay their respects stood in front of the altar, burned incense, and quietly said a prayer for uncle or said goodbye, or had whatever private conversation they wished to have with uncle at that moment.

Before uncle was moved into the coffin, a prayer service was held. Before closing the lid of the coffin, the family had another opportunity to see uncle for the last time. Another outpouring of grief occurred since Uncle would now be separated from us by a box.

The coffin remained in the family home for three days, and relatives, in-laws, neighbors, and colleagues of my aunt, uncle, and cousins came and paid their respects. Money, flowers, and wreaths were donated according to the guest’s ability and closeness to the family. Food and drinks were served to all as they came. Most stayed at least long enough to say their condolences and chat. Close friends and relatives spent hours or days with the family, helping to cook, organize, direct the flow of visitors, or just chat about good and bad times, about uncle, and about each other. There were tearful moments and also occasional laughter. A family member kept vigil over the coffin at all times.

At the gravesite, another service was held. The coffin was lowered into the grave and buried. Emotions, which had calmed during the service, rose again. Here was yet another chance for mourners to say goodbye, and another outpouring of grief occurred. Most guests left shortly after the burial to return to uncle’s home for the feast.

Before leaving the cemetery, they burned incense and paid their respects at the graves nearby: all our great-grandparents’, grandparents’, aunts’, uncles’ and cousins’. As they went from grave to grave, they felt more at peace with the thought that uncle would be in good company, so to speak.

Back at home, a feast prepared by relatives and neighbors was served. The whole community; family, relatives, friends and neighbors, got together and renewed ties. From the moment of imminent death until the end of the funeral, key relatives and friends stayed at the home and helped organize everything; from cooking and preparing garb to making arrangements. At home, incense was burned on the altar every day to remember and respect uncle. In the first hundred days after the death, food was presented on the altar before each meal. After that, on every special occasion, the ritual of sharing food is repeated: the family invites uncle to enjoy the food that they eat to show he is still a part of their lives.

These are some of the usual rituals used to honor the dead ancestors in the Vietnamese culture.”

You will notice when you re-read this piece how human and hands on the entire process is and how community-based it all is. The involvement of children and neighbors speaks volumes of how death is accepted as a normal and natural facet of everyday life. How grief is accepted as a healthy response to the loss of a loved one.

Find a ritual or two you could add to your own end of life plans.

Warmly and with gratitude

Stephen

Doctor Assisted Dying or Doctor Assisted Prolonging?

If we are going to have the discussion about doctor assisted dying, a conversation I fully support, we also have to have a chat about the doctor assisted prolonging of life -the other side of the same issue. The assisted dying conversation is only half the coin and though it is the controversial topic getting most of the attention we need to talk also about the unnecessary prolonging of life that seems to be acceptable to most people, the medical folks and their patients particularly.

You see at the core of this coin is the taboo topic of death and its companion discomfort coupled with our collective unwillingness to face them both head on and have those important yet difficult conversations. For me keeping a loved one alive with machines, and medication when the outcome is clear – avoiding the natural process of dying – is as offensive and amoral as some think doctor assisted dying is.

And yes, you can argue that miracles do happen, I witnessed one the other day on our Death Matters Live Radio Show. However, they are the rarity not the norm and we ought not hang our hat on these occasional ‘miracles’ to justify doctor assisted prolonging of life either. I have often seen the agony, suffering, and emotional pain families endure when a loved one on life support is kept alive at all costs with no chance of any quality of life as an outcome.

So let’s continue the process of honest, open conversations with all the medical information, a reality of expected outcomes, and frank discussions about BOTH sides of the issue. Despite our preferences, fears, and hopes let’s do the dying one a favor, a real ‘life’ favor at that. Get all the cards on the table about prolonging life or assisting death thereby empowering the one dying and their family to have these important yet difficult conversations in order that they make the best possible choices for the quality of life their loved one deserves.

Remember whether prolonging life or assisting death the medical and professional systems do have input, however the family and their loved one has final say. An informed choice is far superior to a fear-based reaction. In 2016 lets have more of these important conversations, they are in fact life affirming!

 

 

 

We are a “Whole Person” in both Life and Death

Often when death comes knocking we tend to get a little forgetful. We can forget details, appointments, and things that need doing. We can also forget that we, and our loved one facing death is a whole person – they are in life and they ought to be in death too. We are a magical combination of mind, body, emotions, spirit, and yes finances.

Jack Kornfield, a bestselling American author and teacher in the Vipassana movement in American Theravada Buddhism, taught in his book a Path with Heart that we do not have separate lives. Meaning, a financial life, separate from an emotional life, separate from a spiritual life is an illusion– we have but one whole, inclusive life. So that would suggest then that we are but one whole, inclusive being with many aspects to us.

This being the case it would be disrespectful to leave any facet of the ‘whole’ being out when death does come knocking and yet we typically do. We try so hard to be spiritually correct and spiritually respectful we often leave some key aspects of the ‘whole person’ out. Sometimes, we drop out humor, joy or happiness the lighter emotions. Sometimes, we drop out noticing their body and focus only on their spirit. Sometimes, we drop out engaging them in conversations.

One aspect we tend to drop out most often is the financial aspect of the one dying. I recently taught an online program for death midwives – my module was all about being financially ready for the end of life. Most learners were not at all looking forward to it – the money thing you know! Most do not associate money and spirituality and to be honest years ago nor did I!

By dropping out end of life finances that cover the dying process, the death, and then the funeral or cremation process we energetically drop our loved one out too. You see finances ARE a spiritual practice – money IS spiritual. To the degree we mindfully handle end of life finances is the degree to which we take care of the ‘whole person’- our dying loved one.

In our practices of living and dying lets do our best to remember the entire person – mind, body, emotions, spirit, and yes finances too!

 

Written by

Stephen Garrett, MA

Dying, Death, and Humor – Now that’s not Politically Correct!

I remember when my late brother Peter was lying in a hospital bed on the fifteenth floor of Vancouver General Hospital – the BMT Ward. He had been there for weeks and this particular week he had begun intense chemotherapy.

I think it was a Tuesday morning around 10:00am.

I had just walked into his room and noticed the graying impact of yet another round of debilitating chemo. Peter looked like shit and the mood in the room was somber. He and I had always shared an offbeat sense of humor so why would I not use humor now?

Casting political correctness to the wind I said, “Ahhh, good morning Chemo-sabe.”

Even in his weakened state Peter’s retort smacked of our odd humorous relationship, “Not so good Taunt-o”.

Peter and I laughed our asses off.

The nurse present in the room, doing her numbers thing and checking bags and machines, looked shocked and a bit disturbed by our seeming irreverence. Mother and sisters who were sitting room too looked a little miffed. Mom couldn’t help being mother and said, “Oh Stevie, that’s a little off color don’t you think? Peter is having a tough go of it.”

To which Peter promptly replied, “Not so much any more Mom, I am feeling a little bit better after that laugh.” A wide smile lighting up his otherwise gray pallor.

Humour was very much a part of our personal relationship so why wouldn’t it continue to be? Peter was still alive as were all of us so why wouldn’t I continue to relate with Peter the way we always had?

Good questions.

Not to poke fun at Peter would have been abnormal for him and me. It would have been out of step with the way we had always been together. That would not have been supportive of him or me. Humor in this case actually lightened the mood and brought some balance to an otherwise heavy time for all of us. My use of humor here was intentional as the heavy feeling were actually getting in the way of the family members talking openly with each other.

It was not about avoiding the reality of the situation. It was about being alive and authentic in the reality. Political correctness can be debilitating and really interfere in natural human relations – I use humor to avoid that paralyzing trap of being proper.

The title of my next book – Chemosabe and Taunto – Riding Side Saddle with Cancer arose out of political incorrectness and humor Peter and I shared.   What a grand way to remember him.

We Can Die Better – 2015 – A Year in Review

As 2015 comes to its natural close and we begin to prepare for the brand new 2016 I want to thank all of you who joined me on the unique path of working with dying, death, grief, and loss. We have made some fantastic inroads over this year and 2016 promises to be even more exciting!

Here is some of what we accomplished this year:

We launched We Can Die Better eMagazine

We co-hosted a weekly Death Matters Live Radio Show

We Can Die Better – Death a Community Development Opportunity got rolling

These are all in addition to our foundational

End of Life Guide Training Programs.

Below is a bit about each of these impactful projects.

We Can Die Better

“The mission of We Can Die Better is to generously serve readers with contemporary, accurate, and well researched information regarding the intimate and important process of dying, death and grief and to do so with boldness, compassion, creativity and humor.”

Magazine editions are formally published October, January, April, and July at the end of each month and feature a core team of contributors along with articles written by experts in the filed of dying, death, and grief. There are also monthly posts to keep the magazine fresh and current with new information for our readers.

Go to http://wecandiebetter.com and subscribe now and you will receive three All Ready to Go Kits – one for getting ready to talk with the children, one for preparing to chat with funeral directors, and one for financial planning.

Death Matters Live Radio

With the generous support of Vancouver Coop Radio, a membership driven station, Death Matters Live aired in July and was initially schedule to be bi-weekly. The shows great format and popularity opened the way to a weekly show airing every Wednesday from 12:00 noon to 1:00pm PST.

A five-member team hosts the show and focuses on bring dying, death and loss back to life. The show features a weekly guest, along with a Dying to Ask segment, An inspiring poem, the reading of a eulogy, and a resource section. You can find all our shows archived at http://deathmattersliveradio.com and if you would like to tune in each Wednesday you can go to http://www.coopradio.org and hit the listen now button at the top left of the splash page.

We have featured guest like Lucy Sharpe, a clutter-clearing specialist, Nicole Renwick, the Executive Director of the Memorial Society of BC, and Carol Todd, the mother of the late Amanda Todd. The show is chalk full of helpful and supportive information regarding all matters of dying, death and loss.

We Can Die Better – Death a Community Development Opportunity

“is a process that communities can follow to prepare well for the end of life issues we are all facing. Being well prepared and organized as communities is a gift we can give to each other – dying, death, and grief are, after all, a community affair.”

Launched in Prince Rupert earlier this year we are excited to report that The 75-20 Initiative was passed by Mayor and Council and reported on by Shaun Thomas of the Northern View this past July. This brave rural coastal community has taken on the challenge of getting 75% of its residents end of life prepared by the year 2020. The plan is to continue moving this community development opportunity forward throughout rural British Columbia during 2016.

End of Life Guide Training

We had a successful year of training and now have eight graduates, with another twenty-seven people at various stages of the self-paced dying, death, grief training program. I will be reviewing the basic training to ensure it is still current and relevant and will be putting the finishing touches on a new six-week program called Alive in Death that will be launching next spring. You can visit www.endoflifeguidetraining.com

Web Sites

Given all the additions to what we are doing and involved in, a renovation of our three websites is in order. We have secured www.stephengarrett.ca and this site will be the entry point for all the services, resources and training we offer. Look for the new web site in the spring of 2016.

Warmly and with gratitude

Stephen

Subscribe to We Can Die Better eMagazine

http://wecandiebetter.com

Listen to Death Matters Live

http://deathmattersliveradio.com

http://www.coopradio.org

Check out End of Life Guide Training

http://endoflifeguidetraining.com/members/?_s2member_vars=page..level..0..page..2..Lw%3D%3D&_s2member_sig=1448579069-ca983de294960cc64c1005634afb791a

When it Comes to Terminal Illness Who Says What the Good Fight is?

Two questions right off the bat…

“What is the good fight?”

“Who says what the good fight looks like?”

I have noticed over the years working with dying and death that there exists an expectation that the one walking with cancer or a terminal illness will fight on at all cost and wrestles the monster to the ground. I noticed it with my brother Peter too. There is this subtle and sometimes not so subtle underlying expectation that the one dying must fight for their life – that fighting for life is somehow more worthy than living the rest of your life as fully as you can without fighting.

I watched a beautiful movie last night, “Me, Earl, and a Dying Girl” it was touching, raw and thought provoking. There was a scene in the film when the young teenaged girl fighting cancer for her life decided she had had enough of treatments that were not working, feeling like shit physically, mentally, and emotionally with no hope for cure. She simply chose to stop the fight and live the life she had left.

When she made the announcement to her boy friend he lost it. He got angry ‘at’ her for quitting, for giving up on college, life, and him. He yelled ‘at’ her for making a choice he did not agree with. She asked him to leave if he could not support her in the choice she had made. So he left.

This very raw and poignant scene speaks to exactly the point of this article. Who gets to describe the good fight? Who has the final say? There seems to be lots of people with tons of input from a multitude of perspectives. And all of this is input for sure. Some of it may be helpful and some of it may actually be a hindrance. At the end of the day who is it that gets to say fight or not, and how the fight will play out?

In this scene of the movie there was lots going on between just these two characters. She had had enough of the fight and wanted to live the rest of her life and then die – quality as opposed to quantity. Clear and understandable.

Her boyfriend was understandably upset and his response was out of his emotional reaction to the ‘bad’ news she had shared with him. His upset was more about him than serving her needs. Understandable too. Her Mom was an emotional mess too.

So including only these three characters, imagine what the young teenager had to go through to maintain her choice and she was the one dying!

My brother was facing a very difficult choice – do I do another round of intense chemo-therapy and then stem cell transplant? The whole system was involved, medical system, family, co-workers, and friends, now that is input! We all had different opinions, me especially. Yet at the end of the day it was Peter’s ultimate choice. Yes we all got to say our piece. Then the important point came. Peter chose and we as his family needed to put out opinions aside and line up on the side of my dear brother’s choice.

We did and this is where the magic began.

Though I had a hard time watching my brother suffer I was a big cheerleader for him. I simply took my upset to friends and family and shared with them my emotional reactions to what I was watching Peter going through. So I kept myself healthy AND served my brother on his chosen path. My emotional reactions would not have served him in any way. He already knew my perspective so any further bangin’ on the drum emotional or otherwise would have been abusive. The entire family cheered Peter along and supported him in his choice – it was all about Peter.

In his active dying it was much the same. Once the ‘good fight’ was done and death was knocking Peter also had choice about how and with who he died and he expressed it.

Just his wife present.

All other good-byes were to be one–on–one short and sweet no fuss, no lengthy hanging around. Though some of the family wanted it to be done differently we set up the end of Peter’s life exactly as he wanted it. We all had a private time with Peter, said what we had to and then left. At the end of his life there was only him and April, his wife, as he took his last breathe and died. Just the way Peter wanted it.

So I guess that answers the question. Who has say about the ‘good fight’?

The one dying does!

It is all about their best wishes for their fighting for life, dying, and death.

 

 

 

 

From Prognosis to Death to Grief – A Path with Many Losses

Looking back over my journey with my late brother Peter as he walked with cancer I am more aware than ever before of a path full of losses, many of which go unnoticed. This lack of acknowledgement leaves these mini-deaths suspended in everyone’s emotional body, building a kind of grief bank account. As deposits are unknowingly made to the grief account we start to fill up and feel overwhelmed by it all. Then when death does arrive the dike holding back the latent grief bursts and all the previous mini-deaths combine with the final death to deeply complicate the grieving process.

It would be wise then, to be aware of these mini-deaths that often occur along the journey from prognosis to death. Being aware will enable each mini-loss to be seen, acknowledged, grieved, and let go of. So let’s take a walk along the path looking at potential mini-losses, listing them, and creating some rituals to acknowledge them each individually.

Prognosis starts the ball rolling with the first two losses –

  • Health
  • Immortality

Once the prognosis has settled in we face a few more mini-losses –

  • Control
  • Freedom

Now, know this list is unique to each person and each health situation so use it as a list or highway signs you could expect to see. It is also not sequential. As the disease progresses the losses begin to mount and they become more evident.

  • Mobility
  • Independence
  • Lifestyle
  • Home environment
  • Capacity and ability
  • Physical senses
  • Appetite
  • Self-control
  • Personal say
  • Dignity
  • Consciousness, and finally
  • Life itself

Now that we have a basic list of mini-deaths lets take a look at a few examples of rituals that could be put in place to both recognize the loss and to grieve it.

The loss of lifestyle is a big one; so obvious it is that we often miss it. All those activities we take for granted driving, golfing, dancing, dining out. Many of these disappear when we become ill. One way to help acknowledge this loss is to tell stories about all those things we used to be able to do and really enjoyed doing. A walk down memory lane of activities you loved that you can no longer do. And yes is may bring up sadness or anger at the loss and that is a good thing as the emotional release will allow you to have joyful memories.

If meal times used to be important to you when well, keep them as important when ill. Make a point of finding ways to eat together even if what each of you eat is different, the shared mealtime is an important ritual to maintain.

Like most things around dying, death and loss the awareness of what is real and having conversations, open chats about it is both important and healing. So notice the mini-losses, talk about them and find ways to acknowledge the loss that allows everyone to continue to walk forward without harboring unspoken thoughts and emotions.

 

 

 

When Death Comes for Dinner We’re Usually Bad Hosts

I have noticed over the years that life, our very life, is without a doubt totally co-dependent on death. My ability to live life, as a human, demands that “others” give up their lives. These lives can be as unacknowledged as a coffee bean dying so I can have my daily life saving latte, to a more recognizable yet often unacknowledged, cow dying so I can eat steak. It can be as unseen and unnoticed as eating a grape picked off a vine in my backyard to the very noticeable soldier giving her life at war to keep me safe at home.

As I watch myself go through my days I am seeing more and more ways my tiny little life in Maple Ridge, as green and low impact as I am creating it to be, is still unmistakably reliant on death.

I take solace in the fact that I shop at the local farmer’s market. I support local growers, keep the money in my community, and eat fresh organic produce that hasn’t travelled from southern California, Mexico, or Brazil. I take shelter in knowing that I grow lots of food, vegetables mostly, in my own backyard and buy my beef and pork from free range ranchers that treat their animals with humanity and kindness so I can eat ‘clean’ meat.

As considerate as I am, as thoughtful as I behave, as caring as I seem to be about what I eat and who produces it and where it comes from, I still kill things or have things killed for me so I can continue to live.

What has this all got to do with a loved one dying you may ask? And I did too.

This!

Like it or not, fear it or not, deny it or not, it is simply the uncomfortable truth we are dependent on death to live.

We can prepare to die a better human death if we are mindful of all the mini-deaths that support our lives. By practicing day-to-day gratitude for the cycle of birth-life-death-birth-life-death; by giving gratitude for the life lived or the life given or taken. I am finding that a daily practice of thankfulness for everything I have consumed in order that I can live most helpful. I demonstrate my thankfulness by;

  • Saying a short of thanks prayer before I eat.
  • Washing the dishes after I have a meal.
  • Composting kitchen waste as a mindful offering to next year’s growth.
  • Saying thank you as I pull a carrot from the garden.
  • Joyfully watering the garden plants when they need it.
  • Acknowledging the preciousness of life no matter how significant or insignificant I may judge it.
  • Thanking those who made my meal possible from the farmer to the chef.

Let’s learn to be better host for death -what do you say?

Hangin” With Mom – Life in a Retirement Home

Well, what an adventure indeed!

Here I am in Carleton Place, Ontario at my dear mother’s retirement home – 108 units full of “old folks”. Nice place, clean and neat, okay food, fine staff, wide halls and things to do – a games room, a movie room, a guest room and all the bells and whistles.

The residence is located close to town, a nice 15 to 20 minute walk depending on the gate of the elder doing the walking – with Mom it was closer to 21 minutes. J The walk along the Old Mississippi River was stunning in all of its fall splendor. Birds getting set to fly south, the reddest reds, and the most yellow of yellows balanced by some brilliant golds.

Doctors of all kind were just around the corner for eye care, foot care, ear care, and back care to name but a few. Drug stores, grocery stores, if need for the sweeter snacks, coffee shops, bookstores, and clothing stores lined the sidewalks of the old town centre. All looks absolutely marvelous and quaint.

Mom, bless her heart, introduced me to half the gang in the residence, fantastic people. And as I got to know them over meal times chat I began to realize just how much wisdom in the form of stories lives here too!

All good as far as I can see – nothing wrong with this place… except there are no young ones anywhere to be seen, apart from weekend visits that is, and even then youngers are scarce. What a shame and what a lost opportunity – all these library books ‘dying’ to be read. All this wisdom falling on deaf ears, and many times they are deaf ears. L Primarily because our seniors are closer to death than we are, actively ageing, and sometimes challenging to be around. So what!

I met many folks over my three days who had amazing life stories fully of wonderful gems of wisdom. Wisdom that if fully shared would benefit both the listener and the storyteller. The listener would gain invaluable life wisdom while the storyteller would have an opportunity to make meaning of their life – a genuine win / win!

Could we not find someway, some innovative means to link the wisdom carrier with the wisdom seeker? Could we not create a library card of sorts that would identify the wisdom each willing elder carries? Could we not somehow get these library cards posted so those looking to take a wisdom carrier out for tea could find them?

If we can we may in fact be able to change the common thought that our seniors are a burden on all our systems to a belief that they are in invaluable asset.