Death Over Dinner

By LIZ MARCHI

Through the magic of technology, I have been watching the Forbes Health Conference in the late afternoons.  I am always interested to learn what “experts” are thinking and to hear breakthrough ideas on health, insurance and wellness in America, a country poor in health although rich in resources. Yesterday there was the most interesting panel yet, a Buddhist monk who works at MIT, the founder of Death over Dinner, www.deathoverdinner.org and a serial entrepreneur who has spent the last year working as a cashier at Walmart.

As I work to learn more about aging and making the most of the time left, I learned a lot from this panel moderated by Arianna Huffington.  Arianna has retooled her life to spend much more time taking care of herself, her body, mind and spirit.  Death over dinner is a nonprofit with a goal of getting us to have the most important conversation we are not having, how we want to die.  According to their website, 75% of Americans want to die at home, only 25% do.  The best advice is that this conversation is like a courtship, if at first you don’t succeed try, try again in stages.  Death by dinner is now global with more than 100,000 dinners having been held around the world.

Alpenglow over the Missions–the view from the Marchi Ranch outside of Polson,MT.

The one common, inevitable experience shared by every human being is death, noted the Buddhist Monk.  The number one fear and complaint of older people is loneliness in old age.  The Monk said in a world of 7 billion people, that shouldn’t be the case.  Aging and facing death are hard work and we tend to want a pill to make it easy. Acknowledging the impermanence of the physical body can take you to a place of peace and rich living as every moment becomes more meaningful.  Mindfulness, mediation and observation take time and focus.  Compassion for other humans  adds enormously to the end of life experience.

Death is a great equalizer.  The unexpected experience working at Walmart was how many Americans are caregiving for the elderly and what an emotional and physical impact it has on the caregiver.  Again, a conversation we don’t want to have.  Just an acknowledgement of the difficulty of caring for an aging person can be so meaningful to the caregiver.

As long as I am physically able, I will do work that has meaning for me.  I will do it differently and I will measure it differently.  I still will be spontaneous but not at the expense of the time I need for self-care, reflection, meditation, reading and doing the work of growing closer to death.  I need more patience for caregiving but then I have the immeasurable joy of grandchildren.

Spring, a time for renewal and refocusing on what’s really important in your life.  May you cherish every blossom and ray of sunshine in our beautiful world.

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Liz-MarchiLiz Marchi lives on a ranch in Polson, Montana  with her husband Jon. She is the Fund Coordinator for the Frontier Angel Fund and spends a lot of time thinking and learning about entrepreneurs, the economy and Montana’s unique place in the world. She has three daughters and a stepson and daughter and a grandchild.  She graduated from Hollins College and is entering the final quarter of life…unless we go intoovertime.