An Excerpt from Book 2…


by Victoria Brewster, MSW

It is difficult sometimes to separate the personal from the professional. While I was raised Catholic, I converted to Judaism (conservative, but reform in practice), and am a case manager/social worker professionally.

I am an organ donor and my husband along with my kids know this. In Judaism, one is not supposed to desecrate the body in any way, but to me, there is no greater mitzvah than to say: “When I am no longer of this earth, let my organs go to someone else who can benefit from them and live.”

Next, I need to write up my wishes for when I am not cognizant, in a coma or unconscious for some reason. My husband knows what I want, but written is what matters.

I need a mandate and advance care directive. This paperwork is not cheap, notaries are expensive! So far, I have not done this because of the cost involved. I would like to see communities come together to arrange a network of service providers who refer to one another and lower their prices so the ‘average’ person can afford the service. Something so important should not be out of reach of the ‘average’ individual.

Not easy to decide, but I do not want tons of life saving measures. If code red can help me ok, but if I could suffer or not benefit in some way from life saving measures then no, I do not want it.

This can be hard on the spouse, partner, family, and friends, but if wishes are written up then they (family and friends) along with medical professionals should follow it.

A surgery that cannot really benefit me or a procedure that cannot really benefit me; why give/do it? It is a waste of time, money, and resources.

Physicians, as well as social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and nurses need to realize and accept they are not all-healing. Sometimes, one may have to tell a patient/client there is no hope and how can we make you comfortable? Not ideal, but it is reality.

Comfort, as pain free as possible, and allowing the patient or client to spend whatever quality time they have left with friends and family is important and should be the focus whether in hospital, hospice, palliative care or at home.

While it is difficult to discuss and difficult to even think about; let’s remember that long go, death and end-of-life occurred at home and in the community. Viewings took place at the family home, burial, the whole community attended, and mourning rituals and traditions occurred in the family home.

So, what changed? From all that I have gathered and read, after World War Two there was a shift and this shift moved all to outside the family home and into funeral homes and became as far as I am concerned; very impersonal.

Funerals can cost thousands of dollars. Caskets of solid oak with a ‘fancy’ funeral costs well over $15,000 Canadian which includes the funeral, the burial, the transportation, and more.

One of the things I like about Judaism is burial within 24 hours as much as possible, and a shroud or pine box is acceptable. Low cost, quick, and to me as it should be. I would like a green or conservational burial (to be described in more detail in a later chapter) and low cost. Wrap me in a shroud, dig a hole, and plant a beautiful tree on top. We become earth again after so why not? Others may not agree with this view, but it is what I would want.

Death and dying…growing up it was a part of my life. “We need to become comfortable with the uncomfortable…”

*The photo/image for this post is me on my wedding day. I wore my favorite colour and it was a simple ceremony and ‘reception’, 26 people in attendance, but it was a special and meaningful day…*