Speaking to the group of more than 350 gathered at New Trier West for the FAN – Family Action Network, Butler shared step-by-step preparations —practical, communal, physical, and spiritual—to help make the most of one’s remaining time, be it months, years, or decades.
“Most of us do not want to die in a hospital or facility, “said Butler, author of the new book, The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to the End of Life. According to a 2017 Kaiser Foundation study, 7 in 10 Americans hope to die at home.
To that end, she urged audience members to deepen their passions, community connections and to marshal a “tribe” to support themselves or a seriously ill friend. She also advised attendees to seize the power to make any death a sacred rite of passage, rather than a medical event.
For those suffering from chronic illness or caring for a loved one with a progressively terminal disease, Butler’s message is not only about dying well, it’s about living intentionally and in community. It’s important to make quality of life a priority and one that is well planned.
“You don’t want to become a passive victim of your health or a bundle of diagnoses,” she said. “And you don’t want to be a burden on your family.”
She urged family members and friends to have candid conversations with their loved ones, and themselves, to answer the question: “What do you really value when your time may be limited?” She offered several tips:
- Find your “tribe,” the community of people you have a deep kinship with that can surround you in a hands-on circle of care.
- Clean your emotional and relationship house. Ask yourself who you need to say thank you, I love you, and/or please forgive me, and goodbye.
- Create an advance directive, a written statement of a person’s wishes regarding medical treatment, often including a living will, made to ensure those wishes are carried out should the person be unable to communicate them to a doctor. “It is a sacred gift to the generations who follow you.”
During her presentation and as a theme throughout her book, Butler advises: “It matters how you spend your final days, months and years. Have a vision for the people you want to be with you.”