Guest Blogger

Many of the most successful blogs have an element in common: a diverse voice. Blogs partly came about, after all, from a desire for an interactive way to get information and to have a community of people participating in the discussions.

The Death with Dignity movement appeals to people from all walks of life, and we'd like your help in expanding our community. Interested in adding your voice to the Death with Dignity movement?

To have your piece considered for our blog, Living with Dying:

  • You must be a Death with Dignity National Center supporter.
  • Send your Death with Dignity-related article (700-1,000 words) to me via email.
  • Once your post is up, convince your friends and family to read it.

We look forward to reading your work.

Planning a Funeral: Top 3 Things You Should Know

Rachel Zeldin is the founder and CEO of I'm Sorry to Hear, an online community dedicated to helping you with funeral planning. Following the death of a great-uncle and experiencing the challenges that accompanied the funeral planning process, Rachel set out to make it easier to find, compare, and share funeral planning experiences with one another. A labor of love, it is a true for-you, by-you website similar to the TripAdvisor of funeral planning.

Planning a funeral isn't an easy task. Unlike other major life cycle events and purchases, you're faced with some major challenges: time to plan is short, you're grieving, finances are often a concern, and you often know little about the topic and have a very small time frame to do your homework before making decisions.

Below are three things you should know when planning a funeral.

Read more: Planning a Funeral: Top 3 Things You Should Know

Facing My Own Mortality

Daisies in Water, photo care of Laurie Reichart

Laurie Reichart has worked more than 25 years in the health field, and studied creative writing at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. Her forthcoming short story, "Pink Slippers," is in the 2011 edition of Blood and Thunder: Muses on the art of medicine. She has contributed essays to various health organizations, and most of her writing has been on social issues in healthcare and emotional issues on death and dying. This excerpt from "Watering the Flowers" is republished with permission.

A time came when I had to face my own mortality. It was my fourth visit to the doctor in two weeks. The first visit was a routine exam and physical. It never occurred to me that I would be sent down the rugged road of testing, prodding, needles, scanning, and ultrasounds. On this particular visit I wasn't led to the usual examining room. Instead, I was taken to a place that was elegantly decorated. The walls were golden with autumn decor. There were paintings of beautiful women throughout different eras. A large overstuffed couch was filled with ornate pillows. A few cherry wood tables held two small lamps. The lamps were the only source of light, replacing the usual fluorescent lighting in the ceiling. Across from the couch was an upholstered chair. The room was serene and calming, yet, I was nervous.

Read more: Facing My Own Mortality

It's Time

Becky Proctor

Becky Proctor lives in Boise, Idaho where she's a junior high school librarian. With respect for family members, names have not been used in this article.

Mom and I were sitting hand-in-hand on her couch when the phone rang. We'd been waiting for the call.

"She's gone," said my brother-in-law quietly on the other end of the line. My little sister's 25-year battle with brain cancer was over. She died in her home, on her favorite recliner, with her cat on her lap, her son holding one hand, and her husband holding the other. Just as she wanted.

In the final gentle hour of her life, she said her last "I love you" and closed her eyes. Slowly her breathing softened and her heart beat became fainter. When it stopped, her pain and suffering were over. But her legacy lives on. This is a tribute to a loving, compassionate, and courageous woman who lived and died with purpose and dignity.

Read more: It's Time

Let Me Make Up My Own Mind

Joan Tollifson

Death with Dignity supporter Joan Tollifson sent the email below to the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) about her dismay at the direction the organization has taken in recent years.

Dear Friends,

I am an amputee. I worked long ago at the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley and was active in the disability rights movement. I was inside the Federal Building for the entire month of the 504 occupation. I have been deeply saddened in recent years to see the disability rights movement, which I love, align itself with the most conservative religious forces in our country and oppose things like assisted death, which I fully support.

I'm 65, and if I end up with a painful, terminal illness, I welcome the right to legally terminate my own life. I've been with friends who made this decision, and I know that in Oregon, it cannot be made lightly—there are more safeguards in place and hoops to jump through than you can imagine. I know how deeply grateful those friends were to have this option.

Read more: Let Me Make Up My Own Mind

Expert Analysis of Advance Directives

"Ask DDNC" is a new column created to serve as a resource for you. Today, we'll focus on advance directives. We consulted Ann Jackson, MBA, for her advice. Ann Jackson is former director of the Oregon Hospice Association and now consults about end-of-life issues and options.

Every state has an official advance directive and is appropriate for all capable adults, regardless of health status at the time it's completed. Its purpose is to protect your right to refuse medical treatment you don't want, or request treatment you do want if or when you aren't able to make such decisions yourself.

Many people aren't aware that, without an advance directive, everything will be done to preserve life—even when it's not likely CPR or other life-sustaining treatments will be successful. In this column, I'll use Oregon's as an example. The Oregon advance directive is straightforward and relatively easy to complete. You can complete Part B, Part C, or both, depending on your advance-planning needs. You must complete Part D and your health care representative, if you appoint one, must complete Part E—Part D is for your signature and the signatures of your witnesses, and Part E is to be signed by your health care representative accepting the appointment.

Read more: Expert Analysis of Advance Directives

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Defend dignity. Take action.

You are the key to ensuring well-crafted Death with Dignity laws for all Americans. With your financial and volunteer help, the Death with Dignity National Center, a 501(c)(3), non-partisan, non-profit organization, has been the leading advocate in the death with dignity movement. Member contributions helped us pass a new Death with Dignity law in Washington, defend the Oregon law, and provide education and outreach programs for the vitality of the death with dignity movement.

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