I have a very vivid memory of the day we got our first dog. I was six or seven years of age and we were on a visit to my uncle’s farm. He had six or seven dogs and was more than happy when my mother expressed an interest in a lovely Dalmation who was sitting up on an old chair in the yard. She was ours if we wanted her! Mother called us kids to heel and said very gently that if we were going to take the dog that we had to realise that she was unlikely to live as long as us and that parting would be very difficult.
It seems to me that few people are prepared to address the ‘natural order’ of things when it comes to humans and somehow issues around the death of parents tend to be brushed aside. However, there is so much to be gained by having discussions about dying and death with one’s parents when they are healthy and well and in a position to outline their views and wishes. Waiting until some major emergency arises can cause all sorts of complications.
Clearly there are many topics that can be addressed but for so many it is the actual business of broaching the subject that presents the biggest obstacle. I think the ideal lies in having parents open the discussion and have it as a thread running through their lives. To speak of death with close family certainly doesn’t cause death but it may well save a lot of suffering, second-guessing, regrets and unnecessary angst.