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In My Words

Categories: Blog, Chronic illness, Creative, end of life, Legacy, Medical profession, Uncategorized|

"I've spent over a decade in critical care, in that time I've seen my fair share of patients as they face the end of their life. Whether expected or unexpected, it is always hardest for the families. Many times the patient doesn't know they're dying, there are breathing tubes, gastric tube, catheters, sedation and analgesia. While dying is something that happens to everyone it is expected to want to buy more time. It's so final that often times families can't let go, they hold onto every ounce of hope that they hear often ignoring the bigger picture. When families know the end is near they try and control the uncontrollable. Even with a wonderful palliative care team helping the family cope, the patient's wishes are often ignored prolonging the inevitable. What these family members don't realize is that their family member is suffering. If they could only feel the endotracheal

Stages of Death

Categories: Blog, end of life, Performances, stages of life|

Life lessons from the mortuary to the theatre If you're a Central Texan, chances are fairly good that you've seen Bernie, the dark Richard Linklater comedy starring Jack Black in the title role. I saw it with a friend a few weeks after the movie's release and remember vividly the opening scene of Bernie's return to his alma mater as a guest lecturer ... on the process of embalming. My fellow audience members shifted uncomfortably in their seats and let out gasps of "eeew!" I, however, smiled quietly, for I knew what many of them did not: that the onscreen depiction of the process of preparing a body for viewing was spot-on. Read Full Article

Voices From Five Rooms

Categories: Blog, end of life, Poetry, stages of life|

Five short monologues by Mary Crescenzo William I want to sleep in my own bed, if you haven’t sold it at a garage sale. I want the dog to come here or better yet, can you take me home? I want to sleep on the mattress that only you and I have slept on. I want music I love, not the MUZAK that I pay for as part of the bill. I want to sing a song without someone in the next bed telling me to shut up, telling me to keep it down, I know I’m sometimes out of tune. I want to eat a piece of cake and wash it down with ice cream. I want to look out the window and recognize the trees. You say, "You’ll be alright," as if you think you can fool me, as if that makes it easier for you to get through

An Early Frost

Categories: Blog, end of life, Poetry|

An Early Frost Once again they’re alone, like in the beginning, only now it’s winter and the backseat of their car rides emptied, a painful reminder of an early frost, her last breath still resting warm on their icy cheeks. And now, but for the rattle of a loose tailpipe that always gripes over the last frozen mile home, there remains no hint of a previous season, though the animals seem to know, bowing their heads each time the tailpipe announces its return.


Categories: Blog, end of life, Legacy|

Here at The Final Acts Project, one of the words we like to use is “legacy.” It’s a big, fancy word. We’d all like to leave our legacy. But what exactly does it mean, and why is it important? I believe that “legacy” means capturing the essence of an individual’s life, the part of a person that will live on beyond death. Sadly, the full richness of a person’s life is often not on display until a funeral service, where an entire personal history is recalled by loved ones in a special ceremony. Isn’t it strange that often, we wait until someone has died to honor his or her life and give it the remembrance it deserves? Because our society is often uncomfortable discussing death, focusing on someone’s legacy also may be neglected. No ceremony highlights someone’s legacy until that person has achieved an advanced age, is gravely ill, or

The Anatomy of Loss

Categories: Blog, end of life, stages of life|

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines loss as “the failure to keep or to continue to have something.” It also defines loss as “the experience of having something taken from you or destroyed”. Clearly, loss is not only defined in different ways between individuals, but between diverse cultures, and it can vary greatly over vast stretches of time. And how we each respond to loss is distinctly unique from individual to individual. For me, loss has always been a phenomenon that is both simultaneously real and ethereal. There is this mystifying duality I must confess I’ve never understood very well. In my world there is the abstract, and then there is the concrete, where boundaries of loss are simultaneously sharp and porous, delineated and amorphous, here and there. It reminds me of floating bubbles – in your hand one moment and gone the next. The last half of the twentieth century has slowly

Avoiding Difficult Conversations

Categories: Blog, end of life|

Some say the best way to avoid a difficult conversation (like end-of-life care planning) is to ignore it until it goes away (my mother was brilliant at this strategy). My personal experience has taught me that if we ignore the end-of-life conversation long enough, it will indeed go away, and with little help from us. After a lifetime of observation, I feel fairly confident in saying that many of us expend a great deal of energy trying to avoid the topic of death, and the preparation required for the final act of our lives. It’s not an easy conversation for most of us to have, not even for those of us who work, study and write about it. We occupy our minds with everything but that which needs to come to us more naturally, more easily. We push hard conversations and challenging thoughts to the remotest corners of our minds,