A project for all of us: talking about end-of-life issues

Some 60 events designed for people of all ages to think and talk about end-of-life issues gets underway Oct. 14 at various locations in Montreal.

It’s called Projection, initiated by the McGill Council on Palliative Care, at the forefront of creating strategies to help Montreal patients facing or contemplating the last chapter of their lives. The idea to hold these events here came from Kappy Flanders, founder and co-chairperson of the McGill Palliative Care council. She co-chairs Projection with Suzanne O’Brien, and it is being financed in part by an endowment from the Goldberg Family Foundation. This is believed to be the first such project in Canada.

There are concerts, workshops, and discussions planned in educational and religious institutions and libraries, covering arts and culture, health and social services, spirituality and faith, design and technology and education, in English and French.

Says Flanders: “We want to get people to talk to each other about things that are really taboo, for families to discuss what they would like to have done, what they would like their legacy to be, if they have a terminal illness or as they get older.”

“You need to have advanced planning, whether you have a living will, or not – these are things that should be discussed in families,” Flanders notes.

When the end of a life approaches, children and/or the surviving spouse should have a clear idea about the person’s intentions. “Your children should know what you want, and your children should be talking to their children,” Flanders said. To those reluctant to grapple with end-of-life issues, she asks, “Why don’t you want to grapple with it? Anything that is such a foregone conclusion deserves thinking about and taking steps that makes it easier for the people you leave behind.”

While we are healthy, we should make our intentions clear, she adds. “There are so many decisions to be made. If you’re diagnosed with something when you’re 85, do you want to have surgery, do you want to have chemo, or would you like to die a natural death?

“If you’re over 80 – Flanders notes she’s 81 – and get an anesthetic, there is more chance you will not come through, or if you do come through, it will be not as well as you would have done 20 years earlier.”

Some people would prefer to live with a disease, and possibly die of it, rather than undergo extraordinary measures, she noted. “These issues deserve at least consideration and discussion.”

Among the English events:

Oct. 15, 7pm — I Medici di McGill, in concert, Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, 3415 Redpath.

Oct. 15, 5 pm – Death Café is an open invitation to share tea and cake and discuss death with a view to helping others make the most of their lives, presented by DeathCafe@McGill, 651 Sherbrooke W.

Oct. 16, 4 pm – Death, Memories, & Technologies, a discussion of the technologies of memorializing the deceased, include digital graveyards and online memorials, 4th space, 1400 de Maisonneuve W.

Oct. 19, 11 am – Pet Grief, designed for children 3-12, with therapist Nathalie Segall, Montreal West Children’s Library.

Oct. 19, 7:30 pm – Senior Staff, the folk quartet of Helen Binik, Phil Jones, Brian Nicholson, and Stephen Weinstein, perform songs of the 1960s, and more, Atwater Library. Donations will be given to the Palliative Care Council. Open at all.

Oct. 20, 10 am: Best-selling crime novelist Louise Penny, a former CBC broadcaster, in conversation with the CBC’s Shelagh Rogers on “Life, Death and the Whole Damn Thing,” at the Temple Emmanu-El Beth Sholom. Penny volunteered in palliative care some 25 years ago and in 2016 lost her husband, Dr. Michael Whitehead, who was living with dementia. He died at home. An A Capella group from McGill will be performing during the event. $20.

The full lineup is at projectionweek.ca

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