While the news of the world continues, both the hopeful and the grim, for our family it has been a particularly sad week.

My partner’s mother experienced a freak accident and died.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at heather@heatherdmartin.com.

Her death brought home a lot of life’s lessons really fast, but first I want to tell you just a little bit about her.

To begin with, I say she died because I am given to straightforward statements like that. But Rose Marie herself would say she “passed.” I know this because she and I have had occasion to talk about people who died, and “passed” was always, without fail, the term she used. It gave some privacy and dignity to the person in question, a verbal veiling of the facts. It was kind.

Rose Marie was a nurse, most recently for people nearing the end of their lives, and before that for a private doctor and as a school nurse. She was one of those people who invariably became “part of the family.” She stayed later than required, made time for “a spot of tea,” and really, truly listened to the life stories that unfolded around her. She was very good at her job.

Rose Marie was also a deeply thoughtful person who attended to details. One of these details was the creation of a living will.


Unlike a last will, which distributes property and assets, the Mayo Clinic notes that “living wills and other advance directives are written, legal instructions regarding your preferences for medical care if you are unable to make decisions for yourself.”

A living will records very specific instructions on what interventions you do – and, more importantly, do not – wish to receive in a crisis. It might not be pleasant to sit and think through all the various possible scenarios you hope will never happen, but it is important.

Also, although these documents are concerned with the end of life, that does not mean they are solely for the elderly. Accidents or injuries can befall us at any age and when a tragedy arrives, the time for sorting your thoughts and making decisions has passed.

Next, you should name a health care power of attorney: a person who is familiar with your wishes and who can legally act on your behalf to enforce them. Make sure they are legally registered as such, and that those who love you know who to call.

Many people choose to hire a lawyer to draft these documents, but there are also online versions available for the DIY crowd. Just remember to get the directives notarized.

The next most important step is to not keep it to yourself. It’s awkward, it might be unpleasant, but talking about your wishes gets easier the more you do it and, most importantly, it makes it clear to those who love you what your wishes are. No one will be left wondering if they are remembering correctly or second-guessing things. It might even prompt others to get clear on their own wishes as well.

I’m grateful to Rose Marie for giving her family a clear understanding of her wishes about end-of-life decisions and I am grateful her children were able to follow her directives. Most of all, though, I am grateful for the love she gave to all of us fortunate enough to be her family.

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