April 21 to April 25, 2008 is "Will Week" in Manitoba.
This is the perfect time to pull out your will and make sure that your assets are divided the way you want them to be. If you don't have a will, then this is the time to write one. Simple wills that don't involve children, second marriages or a lot of properties/assets can be drafted by hand and notarized in most areas. Even if you don't have much of value, do you really want the province/state appointing a complete stranger to make decisions for your belongings? They never knew you or your relationships, so how can they possibly know what you would want done.
The same applies to "Health Care Directives" which are also known as "Living Wills". Basically, it is a document that appoints a person(s) of your choice to speak and make medical choices on your behalf in the event of an accident or illness that leaves you unable to express your wishes for medical treatment.
A "Health Care Directive" is one of the most important documents that you will ever have. Even someone in perfect health should have one. As much as we like to think that nothing is going to happen, the reality is that we don't know what is around the corner.
Think about it. What measures would you want taken. Life at any cost - even if that meant life as a quadriplegic or on a ventilator? Would you want transfusions, feeding tubes, amputations, transplants? In the event your heart stops would you want a "DNR" (Do Not Resuscitate) order on your medical file? What level of disability do you draw the line at?
Have you talked about any of these issues with your partner/spouse, parents, children friends? If you haven't you should. We may think that we know what other people would want, but the reality is often different and it can cause a lot of problems if the unthinkable happens. Making decisions for other peoples lives can tear even the closest of relationships and families apart.
In the early 1990's I lived in a building that was a mix of able bodied and disabled tenants. I had the opportunity to talk with many people living with permanent disabilities. Some were glad they were still here and willing to fight for life at any cost. Many wished that their loved ones had not been so determined to keep them alive at any cost, as they were the ones living with the permanence of the disability, not the relative/loved one who made the decision.
I wrote my first holograph will when I was in my early twenties and have made many rewrites over the years.
I wrote my living will in my early thirties. I remain steadfast to those choices. I've lived with disability my whole life and the level of my disability has increased as I age. Living with vision loss is challenging enough, but throwing other disabilities such as a wheelchair or ventilator in the mix - well for me that is unthinkable. I am a fiercely independent person and to loose any more of my freedom would be unbearable. I don't want transfusions, ventilators, feeding tubes, amputations, transplants, wheelchairs or speech/hearing/communications issues. I don't want life at any cost. If the medical professionals can't promise that I will not be more disabled than I already am, then please respect my wishes and let me go. As you may have guessed, I also included a "DNR" in my living will.
By the way, I also want a private non religious wake for my immediate family and closest friends. I want my favourite music in the background, lots of chocolate, and other favourite foods. I want people to tell stories and remember the things we did together. No droll, stuffy service for me. I also want to be cremated and my ashes scattered in places I loved or wanted to visit.
These are my choices and I don't pretend to speak for any one else but me. We EACH have to decide what we can and cannot live with. Assuming that others will know our wishes or that we will die peacefully in our sleep in our old age is just not realistic. I'd rather be proactive and make my own choices than to ask a loved one to make that choice.
The conversation won't be easy, but it is necessary. It is your body, your life, your choice, your death. If you don't make your wishes known to the people in your life, then how can they possibly respect your wishes?