The phrase “will to live” suggests thoughts of people stranded on a mountaintop after an airplane crash or abandoned in the arctic having to endure physical feats of strength and mental struggles to survive or someone who is desperate on the brink of death and miraculously beats the odds and lives to tell about it.
I’d like to give these words, Will to Live, a new meaning.
I’d like to replace “advance directives” and “advanced care planning” with My Will to Live. Because really, these documents instruct people how you want to live before you die. With a new understanding of advanced care planning and the appropriate legal documents in place, you’ll have a voice even though you can’t speak and you’ll have said, “Look, read this, this is how I want to live before I die.” It’s your will for your own body. Here are the things you can decide in your Will to Live:
- the person that you’ve decided is the best person to speak for you, making the best decisions possible for you, in order to live how you want to live before you die
- the medical decisions about treatment plans and life-support choices that you have already made that reflect what you value and how you want to live before you die
- where you’d like to be and who you prefer around you which reflects the way you want to live before you die
- even your plans for your life’s celebration and for your body once you have died
Can you see how this is really about your Will to Live?
You have so many choices! Your family and friends really want this information spelled out for them so they can honor what you want. And then make it happen. To bring the prayers or the pictures or the music or the pillow from home or to prepare your home and call in your friends and family…so many plans to celebrate your life and how you want to live your life before you die!
It is easy to reframe your way of looking at advance directives and see that this really is about your Will to Live. It feels empowering with hopeful emotions and a sense of being your own advocate instead of being at the mercy of whomever happens to be around to make the decisions they think you might want. Do you want strangers or the legal system making your decisions? That can happen if you are not planning your Will to Live.
Unlike a will for your estate and finances and material belongings that you complete with an attorney, this Will to Live can be completed with a healthcare provider or by yourself (though I highly recommend someone with the professional medical experiences at the end of life like myself, guiding you through these steps). It’s a process of thinking and re-thinking what you want, what you would love to happen if you have that option in the end. How do you want to live your life before you die? Trust me, I can support you in answering that question and completing your legal documents. It’s all about you and your Will to Live.
“People too often forget that it is your own choice how you want to spend the rest of your life.” – Rachel Wolchin