A foundational teaching in Buddhism is called the Five Subjects for Frequent Recollection, also known as The Five Remembrances. Remembering that I am of the nature to age, to have ill health, and to die helps me consider how valuable each moment is. Considering that all that I hold dear and those that I love will be separated from me, and that the only thing I really own are my actions, reminds me to live with wholesome action and mindfulness.
My work as a Hospice nurse gives me a unique opportunity to keep this teaching close each time I walk through the door of a person who is living in the last months, weeks, or days of their life. It reminds me to keep it close as I go through my day whether I’m working or not. And it reminds me that it’s never too early to talk with my close friends and family about my thoughts and wishes.
In February of this year, I started offering “Conversations on End of Life”. Since then, we’ve had four events, the last one held in August. It’s been wonderful to see between 20 and 35 people each time, having meaningful conversations with each other and exploring their thoughts and views. In the groups, we’ve talked about everything from what’s important when filling out Advance Directives, to what the dying experience looks like, to housing and caregiving options. Each topic is generated by those who come. I provide some information, and we have large group sharing and smaller one-on-one sharing.
Too often I see that people arrive at this time in their life trying to make very difficult decisions in a state of crisis. I’m encouraging people to think about and have the conversations ahead of time, when things are in a place of calm. By doing this you can feel more prepared and maybe have a better understanding of the issues that might arise.
Our next conversation will be Sunday, Nov. 4 from 3:30-5 at White Heron Sangha Meditation Center in Avila. Hope you can join us.