What Would You Bring to the Table?

by David Nolen

I can’t remember how the idea came about. I’m sure that its genesis was an amalgam of conversations with friends, current circumstances with family members, my lust for good food, and my tendency to want to inject humor into every situation. What brainstorm could be derived from such a convoluted combo? An Advance Directive Potluck party where guests brought any food that they would LOVE to have as their last meal.

The food was hilariously wonderful, heavy on the sweets and proteins. There was homemade gourmet mac and cheese, stone-fired pizza, ribs, noshes in many varieties, homemade lemon-curd cake, cheesecake, and my personal favorite: bacon (brought by a vegetarian). I tried to elicit the story behind each choice as a light starter conversation for the heavier AD discussion that would follow, and each story brought an element of laughter or surprise or shared enjoyment. Of course, some of the dishes were simply purchased at the last minute at a convenient local market, but I made sure to ask what each of those people would have brought if they had had plenty of personal time to consider and prepare a dish.

One of the merits of this party was that we got to enjoy that food in advance since I understand that a hearty appetite is not exactly one of the options that most people enjoy in their final days. However the most beautiful, valuable aspect of the party was the gathering together of friends to share stories as we encountered difficult questions about end-of-life decisions. Through these stories and discussion, we were better able to clarify our thoughts surrounding the narrative involved in the “what if….” situations. We were also given clearer understanding of who among our friends would be the most likely candidate to be a care representative or alternate. Finally, we were afforded multiple witnesses to finish off the form.

Although my wife and I finished our directives by the end of the party, many people left without finishing their form because they wanted more alone time to consider their options and answers.  Several others said that they were going to revise their current AD as a result of the party. Our friend/neighbor from across the alley, though, summed up the party experience best by saying: “It’s wonderful to live in a neighborhood, a city, a country where we can gather together with friends to have intelligent discussion about serious things that matter.” I completely agree.

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Many thanks to Susan Hearn and COHO for their invaluable literature and support prior- and post-event.

My conversations with Susan enriched my understanding of the caring nature of COHO and the important services it provides.