It’s important that you know what is important to you. It is important that you communicate that clearly to your family, close friends and close associates. It is important that if you can’t speak for yourself, you designate someone to speak for you. It is important that the person you designate understands and honors your wishes. It is important that the person you designate understands honoring your wishes is important.
Most of us spend more time planning for vacation than preparing for what would happen if we were struck by sudden life changing, life threatening illness or accident. We do plan to take care of it someday; we’re just too darn busy – planning vacations.
It’s fun to plan vacations. It’s fun to think about fancy drinks with umbrellas, sunset cruises and sleeping in. It’s fun to fantasize about being away from the office for an entire week, no calls, no emails, no bosses, no clients. It’s fun to plan that special meal with that perfect wine. It’s fun to plan to relax and reconnect with your beloved.
Planning for the other stuff may not be so much fun; but it is really gratifying and really generous and really essential. When we plan for the unexpected, we maintain our autonomy. We maintain our say in what happens to us. We maintain control.
One of the worst times to plan for a crisis is during the crisis. (I know this sounds obvious, but it is what so many of us do.) There are times when life comes at us so fast there is not much time to think; imagine you’ve suffered a massive stroke. There is so much information flying at your family, no time to digest, critical decisions must be made. What’s the extent of the damage? Will you recover? To what degree? What are your wishes? You are unconscious, who will speak for you?
Luckily, you have crafted and communicated very clear, very detailed instructions on how to handle your affairs way before you think anyone may ever need to know. You have reviewed and updated them periodically. You have designated a surrogate. You’ve let your surrogate know what you want, what you do not want, what you are willing to tolerate and what you are not. All the legal documents are complete and accessible.
What a gift you’ve given your family! You’ve made a difficult situation a little bit easier. Your family doesn’t have to guess about how to handle things because you’ve made your choices clear. You have provided a roadmap. Your surrogate follows it because he understands your choices and your autonomy are what are important. Your choices and autonomy are to be honored.
You’ve done good work. You’ve earned your vacation. Now go enjoy that drink with the umbrella on your beautiful sunset cruise with your beloved.