Talking About Death Won’t Kill You

Five tips for starting end-of-life conversations

By Dr. Virginia Simpson – Article on


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Long before she died, my mother gave me a gift that would shape both my future and her remaining years: A frank conversation about her wishes for the end of her life.

Thanks to this, many years later when congestive heart failure and emphysema threatened my mother’s life, I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that under no circumstances would she accept extraordinary measures of any sort to keep her alive should she ever reach a point where they’d be considered. No feeding tubes, no mechanical ventilation, no heroic attempts to outsmart mortality at the price of her dignity or comfort.

I even knew — because I’d asked — that if she were dying, it would be OK with her if I cried, which was a big deal because my mother was stoic and never much approved of tears.

Today, I’m at peace knowing that our conversation, held more than a decade before it became relevant in any way, gave my mother the opportunity to have a good death — one couched not in machinery and pain, but in life and love.

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