Five years ago, you would have thought me an unlikely character to be writing this. In my working life I’ve been an engineer, a technology executive, a business consultant and a coach. Now, I work in a local hospice and offer coaching to help people with terminal illness make the most of the rest of their life.
You may well ask what would lead me into this?
I had no medical or counselling background and until I started this practice, I had limited experience of dealing with terminal illness. I can answer only calling and compulsion. Perhaps we all have times in life where ideas that drop into our heads just will not let us go; such is the case with me. It's a bit like when you get a stone in your shoe, and no matter how hard you try, as you're walking, you cannot ignore it. I saw the need of helping others with their unfinished business at end of life as a huge gap I wanted to help fill.
The 21st century Western world has pushed end of life issues right under the carpet, and enabled the majority of us to comfortably ignore them, for most of the time. This is a relatively recent phenomenon: For most of human history, the majority died at home. This was normal, and from an early age people became familiar with death and the dying.
The change in the last 100 years in our outlook to dying is as dramatic as any technological or societal change, and for all the benefits, it has left us distinctly uncomfortable with death. This means that when the unexpected happens: you, or a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness, we have little idea how to cope. This was my starting point... can I help people not simply endure, but thrive in their final days.
There are several quality books about terminal illness and end of life issues, but they are still relatively few and far between. I love Atul Gwande's great book "Being Mortal", but like others, it is for the most part strongly focused on personal experience. What I wanted to offer is a handbook, a “dummies guide” if you will, that would guide and support people through the range of issues that come up when faced with a terminal illness. Resources on this site are designed for those who have lived well, and who want to die well. My aim is to give you a roadmap in the desert of confusion to help you make your last days count in the way you want them to.