Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Death: An Important Conversation

Originally published in The Hindu, June 28, 2016

I opened the topic with my mother while I was reading Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal. “By the way”, I said, as though I were going to talk about the weather, “when I die, I want this-and-this to be done, and I don’t want that-and-that to be done.” Then I asked, “What about you?” Amma wasn’t offended. She told me easily about what she wanted done when her time came. It was not a long, detailed discussion; it was over in ten minutes. I said, “Okay” and went back to my book.

Later I said to my father, “By the way, I had this discussion with Amma. She said this-and-this. What about you?” He told me his preferences too, promptly enough. About funeral arrangements, about the material things that we leave behind, about end-of-life care, and other things.

Ever since I was introduced to the terms ‘palliative care’, ‘end-of-life care’ and so on, I had been reading about the importance of having conversations with our family about our wishes surrounding death. This was a conversation I had been postponing for long.

What struck me was how quickly the answers came. There wasn’t much reflection or thinking needed — clearly because the thinking had already been done, over and over many times. It just had not been discussed with me. Well, who knew which one of us would be the first to leave? That’s why I told them my wishes too. I am glad I had this conversation, because though I was aware of their ideas in general, there were some finer points that I had not thought of — which they both had obviously considered down to the last detail.

Continue reading in The Hindu


  1. i don't think any sensible or good person would like to die with all those machines and tubes strong belief is that,people who have led life naturally human will die naturally or peacefully.person whose life was inhuman in many circumstances has to lead artificial life with ventilators and tubes cuz its law of nature. so laws of nature can't be changed,like we have genetically modified food,we can have rules like euthanasia to end someone's suffering,is n't euthanasia too an artificial or superficial death same as gm food.

    death is not a big deal,life that we have lived before death matters and that life decides how you end.its not a superstition,laws of nature are very logical and rational.if you still have last wish even after death or before death,it means you have never lived life to the fullest or wholeheartedly.
    there is a rule like,person who has lived life naturally human can't be killed by external elements and he/she would die naturally.the day things go against very human nature or laws of nature,that day will be the last day to this observations are based on real life where good people died in sleep or peacefully without any pain.i don't care if some bad person death is painful.

  2. You're brave to open this conversation with your parents, Jeena. Although mom had made her wishes clear, I never had any discussion about it with my father or my husband, nor with my children. I really like the way you did it very matter of factly, without getting into long emotional discussions. Thank you.