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Adding End-of-Life Wishes to Your "Bucket List"

By Glen R. Horst, D. Min., Spiritual Care Advisor at Canadian Virtual Hospice

In the movie, The Bucket List, when mechanic Carter Chambers and billionaire Edward Cole meet in the hospital, they both have terminal cancer. Carter makes a list of all the things he wants to do before he “kicks the bucket” and Edward is intrigued. They set off on an around-the-world vacation that is filled with exotic places and adventures. It’s amazing what Edward’s dollars and savvy can make possible. Yet, in the end they realize that what they really want and need at the end of their lives is not far away or fantastic. Carter finds his final fulfillment returning home to share love and laughter with his wife, children and grandchildren. And Edward finds new peace for his restless life through reconciliation with his estranged daughter and by meeting a granddaughter he never knew.

When you are living with advanced cancer, you want to live as fully as you can and make the most of the time you have left. You don’t know how much time you’ve got, but you sense that every moment is precious. So, you may want to create your own “bucket list” and you let it guide you down both old and new pathways.

Creating a “bucket list” requires reflection on what is important in this chapter of your life. You could consider questions like these:
  • What do I still want to experience?
  • Who do I love?
  • Who do I want to be with?
  • Who do I want to say “Thank you” to?
  • What relationships need forgiveness or reconciliation?
  • What attitudes do I want to have toward my illness and life?
  • What gives me courage, hope, and peace?
  • What legacy do I want to leave?

For more help in your reflections check “Finding Meaning and Purpose during a Health Crisis ” at Canadian Virtual Hospice.

Why not look again at that “bucket list” – does it include what you want when your strength or energy is running out? No matter how far away you think that time may be, it’s not too early to add your end-of-life wishes to your “bucket list.” You may want to consider:
  • How long to continue treatments that are focused on cure? – Your answer depends on your treatment goals, the effectiveness of the treatments in reaching those goals and the burden the treatments add to your life.
  • Who will care for you when you need regular assistance? – Your answer requires consideration of the resources your family and friends have and the kind of relationships you have with them. You will also need information about what services the health care system in your area offers.
  • Who should speak for you if you can’t speak for yourself? – To answer this you need to identify someone who knows your wishes about end-of-life care and whom you trust to present them as clearly as possible to healthcare professionals.
  • Where you want to die? – Depending on your medical situation, you may not have complete control over this. However, you can at least consider whether you prefer to die in your own home, a hospice or a hospital.
  • Who can help you make these decisions? – Health care professionals can be helpful with some of these questions. However, talking with your family and including them in the decisions can help you to get their support in making your wishes come true.

Thinking about end-of-life wishes is not easy, but Carter and Edward found that it has its rewards and can lead you places you would never expect. You can find help in figuring out what your end-of-life wishes are and how to make them happen on Canadian Virtual Hospice’s articles “Health Care Decisions: An Approach to Decision Making and Advance Care Planning ” and “Health Care Directives ”.

If you like to be in touch with others who are going through similar experiences, you will want to hear what others are saying on our Discussion Forums and perhaps join the conversation Advance Care Planning: What is it?  and share your own thoughts, feelings or ask questions.

What will you add to your bucket list?
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