“Go Wish”: The Game that Sparks Important End-of-Life Discussions

The value of Go Wish lies in the consideration and
conversations that it intends to inspire.

Dr. Jessica Zitter writes about the importance of sharing/teaching end of life information with younger
people. She has started to go into high schools to do this. Whenever I have younger people in my
audiences when I present, I make a point of talking with them afterward. They are quite comfortable
with the information. They don’t want people their families or friends to suffer at the end of life.

Go Wish is a card game that broaches difficult questions about end of life and what is most important to
the participants. Created by the Coda Alliance, a community-based, non-profit organization that
promotes the planning and preparation for the individual’s ideal death, Go Wish has a simple but
effective construct. Each card presents a statement related to end-of- life decisions and it is up to the
individual player to sort it into piles based on importance. For example, statements written on the cards
may include “To have my family with me”, “To have a nurse I feel comfortable with”, “To take care of
unfinished business with my family and friends”. The value of Go Wish lies in the consideration and
conversations that it intends to inspire.

Considering one’s own death is daunting, maybe frightening, and often avoided. However, Go Wish
encourages each participant to reflect on their own priorities and needs, and comfort zones. By openly discussing the topic, the intention is that participants will feel less anxiety having
taken the time to deliberately contemplate and record their most important values at the end of life.
The conversations between family members and friends that follow will ease the minds of those who
may someday be placed in a position to help their loved one at the end of life.

Decks of Go Wish cards are available for purchase (in multiple languages) and to play for free on their
website, www.gowish.org ! When playing the free game alone online, it is even possible to print a copy
of how you sorted each statement by importance. You can then keep it in your personal important files,
and share it with family and friends. Visit their website for testimonials and examples of how to use the
cards to spark conversations about end-of- life decisions, options, and values!

New Feature in “Art of Dying” Magazine

I’m an advocate
for living into our dying, being aware of what is happening to us when it’s happening and not
denying it. 

I hope you takes some relaxed time and view the “Art of Dying” Magazine, Volume 1 and
Volume II. Although the first volume was released at the end of 2016, it is timeless. The second
was released in September 2017.

This profound and beautiful online magazine, “Art of Dying,” Volume II, can be found
at www.artofdying.net. Use the right arrow to turn the pages. Enlarge the page so you can read it
easily. If you want to see Volume I, look at the left margin, and click on the image that looks like
a book cover.

In this exquisite magazine, the first of its kind, John Wadsworth, founding editor and creative
director, has designed and published stories and ideas about death and dying. John says, “Art of
Dying unconditionally respects the numberless ways through which we cooperate with death’s
mystery. All perspectives are welcome, and no insistence that pain and sorrow be negated, nor
that the Unknown be known. Death transcends the humancentric worldview. We, the living and
the dying, unite in death’s transcendence.

Since my TEDx talk, “Not Here By Choice,” given only seven months after my husband died, I
have been interviewed numerous times. I offer information generously as a way to help others
expand their own end of life choices.

In Volume I, the article about Alan and me is the last article in the magazine. It is one of the
most beautiful and poignant articles yet written about Alan’s choice and passage to VSED
(Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking).

The article begins: “Alan Alberts is a harbinger of our culture’s changing relationship with death
and dying. He chose elective death through Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking (VSED)
rather than suffering the disassociated life of Alzheimer’s. His wife, Phyllis Shacter intimately
participated in Alan’s death. Together, they embody the emerging paradigm of couples, families
and friends embracing individual death as a shared experience through which all, the living and
the dead, are united in a heightened awareness of life, love and one another. ”

In this first Volume I, Phyllis tells Alan’s story through conversations they held until
Alzheimer’s silenced his voice.

In Volume II (toward the end of the magazine), released in September 2017, Phyllis shares her journey about her grieving processafter her husband died, and how that led her to the work she continues to do today, advocatingand educating others about elective death and expanding end of life choices. “I’m an advocate
for living into our dying, being aware of what is happening to us when it’s happening and not
denying it.”

If you would like to purchase a hard copy of the magazine, go to www.artofdying.net. On the left side, click on “Order Print.”

Each Volume is a beautiful and heartfelt piece of art to enjoy and share with others.


A Better Way To Care For The Dying

With advances in modern medicine people are living longer. The Economist article states

“People in rich countries can spend eight to ten years seriously ill at the end of life”.

Also 3/5 of current deaths come “after years of relapse and recovery.” What this brings to the current status quo is unnecessary pain and suffering for many elderly individuals and their families who do not have an end-of-life care plan. This issue comes not only from people’s challenge with having the difficult conversation but also with the medical profession. Susan Block of Harvard Medical School says “Every doctor needs to be an expert in communicating”.

Doctors tend to be overly optimistic about how long terminally ill patients have to live. This causes many to leave things unsaid and end-of-life wishes unwritten. Recently Americans have seen a rise in planning for treatment care in case of incapacity. However, we are far away from where we need to be. The medical profession as well as individuals must become better at dealing with the inevitability of death.

We can find our ways to deal with the inevitability of death.  Some of us may not find these ways. That is our choice. I learned a great deal observing my husband as he prepared for his death. He acknowledged that he was going to die soon and he dealt with unfinished issues in the last six months of his life. For him, he needed to resolve issues that he had with his mother who was no longer alive. With the help of a therapist, he was able to do this. This brought him deep peace. In addition, he and I met with a chaplain two months before he died. She has much experience in helping people, who are close to death, to prepare for their own. Alan was able to talk about the kind of death he wanted to have. Because he had chosen to VSED (voluntarily stop eating and drinking), he knew approximately when he was going to die. He planned the music he wanted to listen to. We talked about what people would be around him during this time. He talked about what his legacy would be to others. This two-hour conversation covered many issues.

Important End of Life Conversations

This is an all too human story. Having supported my mother and my husband through their end of life choices, I am grateful for the clarity of information that existed between them and me. They were open about their wishes. We had good communication. Many people don’t have these conversations because it creates discomfort for them. Usually, it’s the children who have conflicted issues about discussing the end of life. They don’t want to acknowledge their parents’ deaths.  Following that, they have to acknowledge their own death because it is something we all will eventually face. 

I remember how difficult it was for me to talk about these issues with my own mother. It took years before I got comfortable with it. The conversations made me feel very sad because I had to face that I would lose her someday. I loved her very much. Nevertheless, I learned so much about end of life issues from her courageous demonstration. She was a teacher to me. She certainly helped me pave the way for clear communication with my husband once he was diagnosed with both Alzheimer’s and laryngeal cancer.