[From Jane Williams, Ph.D.] Her response on Bakery to Why college students are dying to get into 'death classes,' in the Wall Street Journal, March 6.
I teach a Death, Dying and Loss class at Moravian Theological Seminary. I think such classes are major aids especially to clergy and counselors whose roles will have near constant involvement with the issues of death, dying, chronic illness, and the multitude of losses (relationships, jobs, etc. -- not just loss from death) that all of us experience in our lifetimes. I continue to be surprised at students who don't take this class because they consider it macabre or say, "Who wants to think about that all semester?" What will they do when they are confronted with their first funeral, with a parishioner's traumatic loss, with a counselee who is trying to find meaning of the death of his 2 year old child, or of a person facing a terminal diagnosis?
Aside from considering the variety of losses and the ways we can help ourselves and others make meaning of them, we also use something called "Five Wishes" (http://www.agingwithdignity.org/five-wishes.php) . Five Wishes is a beautiful document in accessible English (also in Spanish and other languages) that takes one through a thoughtful series of questions and choices as to whom you want to make care decisions if you cannot make them yourself, the kind of medical treatment you would want (or not), how you want others to make you comfortable, how you want others to interact or care for you, and (what I think is a lovely prompt for conversation) what you want your loved ones to know. Five Wishes is a legally binding end of life document in Pennsylvania, and perhaps more importantly, is a wonderful way to help yourself, your family, or your parish begin important conversations and provide instructions for others if the time comes when you are unable to make your wishes known yourself. Five Wishes is $5 per print/hard copy or online copy (downloadable and printable). In quantity, it is less. I urge you to consider sharing this with your parish at an Adult Forum or workshop.
R. Jane Williams, M.Div., Ph.D.
Bethlehem, PA 18020