Mom did not want a viewing - she wanted people to remember her the way she was when she was alive. She lived her life her way and in the end did it her way as well.My mother was 85 when she passed away this past November. I had lost my first husband when I was 33 to cancer and my Dad 11 years ago to cancer as well. When my Mom was told she had incurable squamous cell skin cancer in her lymph nodes after battlling a wound that would not heel for a year and a half, I knew her time with us was now very limited and her health was going to steadily decline.we spent the summer doing a few things she really wanted to do and was still able working around her health issues. We took her to see the WWII memorial in DC and to NYC to go on a carriage ride in Central Park! She never thought she would do this at 85. I had been doing dressing changes daily on her wound and she was declining in subtle ways. She was having more swelling , pain and her wound was opening more do to her ability to heal being compromised because of the disease and diabetes complications. She decided to try a chemo treatment for palliative treatment and before she had the treatment while with her one day I just asked about what she would like to do for end of life care. I could see that we might be facing those decisions very soon and as her primary caregiver and power of attorney I felt it important that we have the conversation so that I could facilitate her wishes with my siblings. My sister was also facing a liver transplant and I knew that I was going to be the one to probably have to carry out what she wished. My Mother had been talking about how she really thought she wanted to be cremated. She was at first afraid the others wouldn’t like that idea. We had many discussions and I told her it was her decision and she decided that she wanted to be cremated and that we not do what she thought was a lot of waste of money on elaborate funeral expenses. She told me she had lived a simple life and she wanted to end her life that way as well. She did not want to be hospitalized to die in a hospital bed but rather in her home comfortable with her things around her. She did not want treatment that was going to only prolong the inevitable. She was very concerned about my sister and wanted only for her to live and to get her liver transplant. My Mom had the chemo treatment and did not tolerate well. She steadily declined throughout the week and when she became very weak I asked her if she wanted to go to the hospital and she said No remember I only want to be at home. I respected her wishes throughout that week. We received a call Friday evening that a liver had become available for my sister and she would go to the hospital in the morningif all went well. The next morning she called that she was on her way to the hospital and we told my Mom she said she said great and that was her last wish. Mom died about 2 hrs later in her favorite chair with her favorite fuzzy blanket. We had her cremated and a beautiful memorial service for her at our church. We kept the flowers simple, had her favorite music at the memorial and buried her ashes with my Dad. I am so glad I asked her what she wanted because it made the planning so much easier with having my sister in the hospital in another state and unable to travel. Mom did not want a viewing – she wanted people to remember her the way she was when she was alive. She lived her life her way and in the end did it her way as well.
I think because of the experience of losing my husband and having had this conversation with him as well , I knew how important this is to share with your family. I wasn’t afraid to ask my Mom these questions and to talk about her dying with her. So many think it is nt being positive to talk about something that is sad but in many ways it can be a very positive experience to share such intimate feelings with each other.