Every once in awhile I come across an article that ends up consuming my entire afternoon.
That happened to me recently when I saw this one from Kaiser Health News (KHN): “‘Put The Fire Under Us’: Church Spurs Parishioners To Plan For Illness And Death.”
In it, KHN writer Melissa Bailey provides a wonderful portrayal of what Pastor Gloria White-Hammond is doing to help the members of her congregation talk more freely about dying—emphasizing the importance of completing advance directives and having essential conversations with family members about end-of-life wishes.
I was really excited to read about this mighty woman’s efforts—since I share the same passion (which is why those last two links will direct you to two episodes of my Dying Talks™ video podcast series).
However, it wasn’t the article itself that took up my afternoon, but a link to a video trailer within it. Bailey writes that Extremis is the documentary that Pastor Gloria serves up with oranges and chocolate chip cookies to get those discussions going.
The film earned an Academy Award nomination and a number of prestigious awards—and it highlights the courageous work of Dr. Jessica Zitter, the author of Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life (affiliate link).
Here’s a glimpse of the power the film contains:
Since I worked in the ICU for 12 years prior to my 15 years in hospice, everything in this clip was so familiar that I was in tears before I was halfway through.
In fact, the types of end-of-life scenarios portrayed are largely what led me out of the ICU and into hospice and palliative care.
Of course, as soon as it ended, I headed to Netflix to watch the whole thing.
Twenty-five minutes and several tissues later, I clicked off the TV and sat down at my desk to write this post.
Having end-of-life conversations before they’re needed is so critical—as are the advance directives to support them.
If you choose to watch the documentary—I’ll warn you that it may be difficult.
It may bring up painful memories for those of you who’ve been through what the patients and families there have endured.
However, if you haven’t had these conversations with your loved ones, and/or don’t already have your advance directives in place—hopefully you’ll be adding that to your to-do list by the time the credits start to roll.
Here are a few websites that can help you get started:
- The Conversation Project: Dedicated to “helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care.”
- Five Wishes: A program of Aging with Dignity.
- PREPARE for your care: Aims to help make medical decision making easier for people and caregivers. Includes free state-specific advance directive forms in both English and Spanish that you can download.
- National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s (NHPCO) CaringInfo: Includes general information and free state-specific advance directive forms that you can download.
- National POLST Paradigm: Includes detailed information about Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST), as well the status of each state regarding its use of POLST.
For more resources about advance directives and peaceful dying, please visit our page, Resources for the Journey.