Three Generations Gather for End-of-Life Conversation

Both laughter and tears when three generations talk about planning for the end.

October 9, 2012, 2:35 PM

Oct. 9, 2012— -- Norb Ranz and his daughter Maureen Jennings have always talked about everything -- except one thing. So the two decided to gather three generations at Jennings' childhood home on his 85th birthday to talk about what Ranz may want at the end of his days.

"My dad is 85 today... he's still very, very active," she said. "He's a great storyteller and a wonderful friend.

The family talked about everything from what the service would be like to what they would do if Ranz' health declined.

"Now we're just asking that you share some of your thoughts about what you would like at the end of your life, so that we can honor your wishes," Jennings said.

"How strongly do you feel about staying in your house? If you have the resources to stay here ... is that something that's really important to you?" she asked him.

"I would miss it, but anybody would," Ranz responded. "If the time comes and I can't take care of it, or know enough people who will help me take care of it ... but it's still kind of fun to be here."

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Jennings and her sister Molly Calhoun used their mother -- who passed away earlier this year -- as a touchstone to talk about how important knowing their father's wishes were to them.

"If we had gotten hospice involved with mom, maybe she would have been more comfortable in some of the points in her life, you know, at the end," Jennings said. "But I was kind of afraid to bring hospice into the picture because I thought maybe that meant we were giving up on mom, and I didn't want her to feel that way."

Ranz eased his daughter's guilt, saying that it was time for her mother "to go."

"She was looking forward to being around, but I think when the time came I think she knew that was time to go," he said.

While the conversation certainly was emotional, there was also laughter.

"What about the service we did," Calhoun asked. "Is there anything special that you want to be there or anything else you want us to do there?"

"Tell funny stories? We'll have plenty of funny stories to tell," Jennings said.

Ranz agreed.

"That's what I would like, yeah ... not too funny," he laughed. "I'm sure you'll do a good job."

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The family then turned to medical decisions.

"OK, Dad, so if you were in a condition where you couldn't make decisions for yourself, how extreme would you want us to take measures to save your life, versus letting you go," Jennings asked.

"Well, I think I'm ready to go any time," Ranz said. "I wouldn't prolong anything. I've lived a great life -- I'm pretty lucky, and it's because of you guys."

Other family members began to weigh in about what they would want in their final moments.

"I wouldn't want anyone to take extreme measures to keep me alive just to have me with you," said Jennings. "I don't want to be on machines or in a coma just being fed IVs."

Calhoun also weighed in.

"I think I've lived a great life," she said. " I have great kids, I have a great family, so I would be perfectly content if I was in that place if you stopped medications and stopped IVs and anything like that and let me go."

Even some of the younger generation spoke up about their wishes. Brett Jennings, Ranz' 28-year-old grandson, told his entire family when it would be OK for them to let him go.

"If there was no meaningful communication, then I would want you to stop trying to intervene," he said.

With that conversation, the entire family joined the rising tide of people taking time to talk about end of life care with their loved ones.

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