​​In my family, death is a common topic at the dinner table. So common, in fact, that it’s sure to induce an eye roll from one of my children. “Pass the potatoes” might come right after “Sheila’s dad just got put on a breathing machine, and he doesn’t seem to have more than a few days.” Of course, I’m a doctor who specializes in Critical and Palliative care medicine, which makes me more inclined to bring up this topic. I care for dying patients every day, and I am frequently sought out by friends and family when someone is dying. A few weeks ago my youngest, Sasha, looked at me and said, “Mom, can we please talk about something besides death tonight?” Her question made me laugh. And reflect. In my own childhood, it was very different. My grandfather died when I was twelve. The lung cancer growing inside him had shrunk his once giant frame into a brittle skeleton. But no one talked about it. He died alone, in the hospital, with occasional visitors during allotted visiting hours. My parents thought the funeral would be too upsetting for me, but agreed to let me come if I stood outside the cemetery with my father. I remember watching from the fence as his casket was slipped into the earth. When I asked my mother about this recently, she said, “When we learned he was dying, we never talked about it. Not to him, and not to each other.” And this despite the fact that many of my family members are physicians. Death carried a hushed silence about it, the sense that discussing it would be too distressing for those involved. (…) Read Full Article Here
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