When my mother was in the final days of her life because of cigarette-related lung cancer a decade ago, my siblings and I had an important tool that let us focus on saying goodbye and grieving – and not on the confusing, chaotic decision making that often surrounds critical illness. My mom had an advance directive, or living will, that made the most important decision for us: She asked not to be kept alive by extraordinary means.
In her final hours, we sat with her in the hospice wing of Middlesex Hospital in Middletown, Conn. A nurse occasionally strolled in to check her condition, or to adjust the painkillers aimed at easing her passing. We held her hand as she slipped away peacefully. It was a sad moment – mom was only 65 years old – but it was as easy as one could possibly imagine.by