When Rebecca Smith’s 95-year-old grandmother was nearing the end of her life, she began to tell her family her wishes in death.
She wanted to be cremated.
She wanted her ashes to be kept in a tea pot.
And she knew which tea pot she wanted to rest in.
“Everyone ran screaming from the room,” said Smith.
|Surrey Hospice Executive Director Rebecca Smith.|
“‘No, no, I don’t want to hear this,’” she recalled family saying. “Well, we all have a right to our wishes and we all have a right to talk about our fears. Shutting other peoples’ fears and wishes down, particularly about something so very very important, is essentially denying truth.”
The importance of learning about and respecting our loved one’s wishes in death is the subject of an upcoming forum hosted by Surrey Hospice Society at KPU’s Newton campus later this month.
Smith said too many people don’t talk about their wishes after death.
“Then things don’t go the way that person wanted,” she said. “Or it’s very challenging in families as to who makes the decisions. It can be horrifically burdensome on family members who feel they have to be there 24/7 at the end of someone’s life, or have guilt that they can’t be.”
The forum, she said, will be “a combination of mainstream as well as alternative ideas and the emerging concept that death is really just a natural part of living and not something to be feared or made into a taboo subject. We need them to be able to convey their wishes to their families, to convey their wishes to their medical practitioners and also to know they can squeeze as much out of life as they can up until the very moment they pass from this world. They need to know they are valued, they are heard and they had a role in how it goes.”
Set for Jan. 27, the annual Community Forum 2018: The Beginning of a Conversation aims to educate people on “how to avoid burdening your loved ones with important decisions regarding your end-of-life matters and instead leave them with guidance to your final wishes,” organizers say.
“Once we draw apart the barriers to talking about end-of-life, we begin having healthy conversations that are purposeful and life-affirming,” organizers add. “If someone close to you has been diagnosed with a serious illness, it may be a very kind gesture to open up the conversation of living and dying well.”
Furthermore, it can be a “healing gift” to lend an ear to someone who has recently lost a love one, the hospice notes.
The day will begin with a panel discussion with Surrey Hospice’s palliative doctor and clinical specialist about the best time to start palliative care and related concerns.
Following that, four stages will be set up throughout the day offering a variety of lectures and workshops.
Two exhibitor’s halls will be set up as well, one more of a marketplace, and another about alternative healing practices.
“Attendees are encouraged to receive, for free, these alternative therapies like aromatherapy and we’ll have a woman who is a professional ‘psycho pump.’ That is someone who assists souls cross over to the other side,” said Tricia Keith, co-ordinator of volunteers and outreach for Surrey Hospice.
A “death doula” instructor from KPU will also be part of the program, Keith added.
It’s the second annual forum for the Surrey society, and the society intends to grow it year after year, said Smith.
“Surrey being such a large and diverse community – and it grows so fast, 1,500 people a month coming into Surrey – we really need to talk to everybody. There’s language and culture and all sorts of barriers, but we’re determined to make sure we get to the people,” said Smith. “We serve the people, and all our services are free. It’s important to make sure people know they’re never alone.”
The event is set to run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jan. 27 at KPU Newton (12666 72nd Ave.). It is free, but registration at surreyhospice.com is required. The first 200 people to register will receive a “forum conference grab bag.”