How to deal with death & dying
Like so many Latinas who have grown up in the U.S. during their formative years, I feel fortunate to be able to draw the best from my two distinct cultures to create a set of values that represents the best of both! This week my best friend's mom passed away after a long battle with a debilitating disease. Her experience got me thinking about how I am going to deal with my parents' aging process as well as my own. Here are some of my conclusions.
I now believe a "living will" is a must! Americans are so practical! This is something that my Latina friends wish their parents had done. A living will is a legal document that provides very specific instructions on medical treatment and life-sustaining measures when someone suffers some incurable and irreversible disease or condition. I know that I don't want to burden my kids with these emotional decisions. I also don't want them spending their money to prologue my life if the doctors know that I'm dying (especially if I'm suffering)!
Home or nursing home? My friend and her sister took turns having their mom live at their homes until the very end. Even though there were times that even I doubted their decision because of the burden her disease placed on them and their families, I still think that this is what I'd also want for my parents. My friends' siblings all contributed towards hiring in-home care for her and she died with dignity, at peace and surrounded by her familia.
The funeral. For Latinas there are so many other details that our gringa friends don't need to consider. What language do you want the mass in so that the abuelas and tías can also understand what is being said? Do I want to be cremated so that half of my ashes live here and the other half in Chile? Although I want to be buried here with my gringo it tears me apart to know that I will continue to be separated from my familia in Chile for eternity! I also often think about me dying and my gringo remarrying and having to spend eternity by myself without my familia. Well, I guess my kids will have to take care of some of these details on their own! However, what I do know is that even if I'm in a nursing home surrounded by gringuitos I still want my favorite Latin foods like empanadas and flan as well as Latin tunes to be a part of the celebration!
Share your thoughts on what you like from the American and Latin traditions as it pertains to aging and death.
Image via Thinstock