Archive for February, 2010

Final words

Posted on February 12, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

At 21 I was enrolled in a “Death and Dying” class, part of my instruction for studies in the field of Gerontology. I was given an assignment that had a huge impact on me; write my obituary. There were no guidelines, no qualifications – just a ‘practice’ of sorts. How was I to be graded on my ‘life story’ anyway? How do you summarize “THIS IS WHO I AM” in 2 short paragraphs? So, where to begin? I searched through the local papers, soaking in the details of local strangers’ stories as published for all to read. It struck me….this written statement to the public becomes your formal farewell to the living. What did I find? Credentials. Accilades. Accomplishments. Offspring. That’s all well, that’s fabulous….someone that spent their time championing a cause should certainly have their due admiration. But is that what I am? At 21, was I a “title” like, housewife, CEO, actuary? Was I but a summary of my “what I did for a living?” Not by a long shot, not even at the teeny tiny, naïve age of 21. I wrote that obituary to the best of my ability then, and I marvel at how different that story is today, some 17 years later. How will it read 17 years from now?

So, I decided that final piece of literature should reflect the Holly at 21. My life to that point, what I cherished and enjoyed. Maybe it wasn’t enough that I stated my position about being serious about my studies and cultivating strong relationships with my peers that would last well into later adulthood…..I felt it necessary to relate to others that I also make a mean pot of taco soup. My photo was included, as my research into others’ obituaries lead me to the realization that I was more touched by those that had a face to the content. But I wanted it to be fun. I think I’m fun, shouldn’t my last words be? I wanted those that knew me personally to get a smile out of reading it, and those that didn’t know me – to get a smile out of reading it.

It was a good practice for me, it has stuck with me. What would your obituary say about you? Are you leading the life you want? Reflect upon it, and consider the practice of drafting your obituary. I’d love to read it – send it to me at In the meantime, go live life to its fullest!

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Planning for the ‘what-ifs’

Posted on February 3, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |


I’m 38 years old, pretty healthy…I don’t concern myself about what ‘could’ happen. I’m an optimist. But truth be told, if something WERE to happen, something catastrophic – and I cannot make my own decisions about healthcare or my wishes for life-sustaining treatment….what then? I think many people are in the same boat with me on this…..we put off the planning partly because we don’t want to think about it, it’s a troublesome topic, but it is essential. Think about the stress our loved ones will be under, in the scenario described above – and they then have physicians asking them the tough questions about what to do and how you would like to be treated.

So, I am making an effort to encourage you to start thinking about your wishes, and then formalizing it so that if the ‘what if’ happens, everyone involved will know how you would like them to proceed. In California, there’s a great form now being used called the POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment)…I think it’s great, because it is more universal than having separate sheets for DNR (do not resuscitate), advanced directives, et cetera. The POLST is printed and copied onto bright pink card stock paper, and emergency respondents know to look for it. The POLST contains information such as, do you want first responders to attempt CPR or not? Medical interventions – are you for comfort measures only, or do you want full treatment (like breathing machines). The POLST goes into even more detail about artificially administered nutrition, in case you are unable to do so independently – some opt for no nutrition by tube, and others may was long-term tube feeding, it’s a personal decision. Your loved ones may not know your wishes, unless you explicitly lay it out for them.

The POLST requires a physician signature, and a copy should be given to your primary care MD, friends and loved ones involved in your care. It can be updated at any time, and SHOULD BE updated any time you change your mind about your preferences for treatment. I encourage you to start thinking about your wishes ‘just in case’ of the ‘what-ifs’ and put a plan into action. AND, encourage your loved ones to do the same.

For questions or more resources about planning for care, please contact me at or 858.349.4403.

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