Choose Your Journey

Choose Your Journey

4 parallels between zip lining and the end-of-life journey might surprise you.

Zip lining is a blast! A little more than a year ago, my husband and I enjoyed three days on Catalina Island in California. One of our first adventures was zip lining through the canyons of this beautiful island.

The idea of crossing a 500-foot canyon attached only to a cable wire was terrifying. What if it snapped? What if my harness didn’t hold? My stomach was in my throat.

Anne ziplining 2015 sized

My zip line adventure on Catalina Island

The step off the first platform was the scariest step. I screamed as I surrendered to the fear. I had to trust that the harness would hold and the cables wouldn’t snap. I didn’t know what the next 30 seconds would hold. It was so very frightening.

It could be disastrous if something went wrong. Or, it could be a smooth ride to the other side.

Every journey starts with the first step—just NOT off a platform into a canyon—and we never really know what lies ahead.

The end-of-life journey bears some striking parallels to zip lining.

  1. You must face your mortality to prepare for the journey. Being aware of my mortality was part of the fear I experienced. Being willing to acknowledge your future death is a fear you must overcome in order to prepare for the end-of-life journey. Here’s a surprise—facing your mortality can create more intentional living. You can experience a more exhilarating life when you are free from the fear of death.
  2. The cable is the healthcare system. The medical system will provide all possible care unless you choose a different route. Unless you say otherwise, you’ll be hooked up to whatever wires are deemed necessary as you hover over the 500-foot canyon. Or, like Jill and Tom, an older couple we met on Catalina, you could opt to hike a modest 100-foot hill at your own pace for a more peaceful passage.
  3. Your “directive” is your approach to the journey. I was strapped into a harness and wore a protective helmet as I zipped from platform to platform. The carabineer from my harness hooked me to the cable. I was completely dependent on the zip lining system. In contrast, our new friend Jill took the gentler, low-tech approach to the journey. She didn’t want to be hooked up to the cable to zip through the canyon. Instead of the harness, she sported a backpack, carried fresh water and walked by Tom’s side, holding hands. They took their time and rested along the way. Jill chose her journey—a more peaceful journey.
  4. You need someone to make sure you are safe. A zip line crew member on each platform checked my equipment and cable before I took that giant step, whereas Jill trusted Tom as her guide. You need a healthcare agent to make sure your journey is what you desire.

Whatever your intention for the journey, you can be prepared to cross from this side to the next. You might zip quickly, or you might meander. By writing your healthcare directive, you can decide the path you want to take, and as important, you can choose who will serve as your guide through the journey.

QUESTION: What is one small step you can take this week or month that will help you to prepare for the end-of-life journey? Will you please join the conversation by sharing this post via social media with your comment using #endoflife?

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