The number one question I get asked is, ‘What made me become an End of Life Planning Coach?’ The expectation is that I have some sort of story to tell when the truth is, I really don’t. But let me tell one anyway.
The Distant Past
The first question most people ask when I tell them what I do is ‘How did you become an End of Life Planning Coach; what was it that put me on this path?’
Many of them make the assumption that there was a specific event, or catalyst, that caused me to change direction and train in End of Life Planning.
And I understand why.
Because many people working in the End of Life Planning space, or in wider death and bereavement work, do have a story to share; something that happened in their life that led them to their current career.
The thing is, I don’t actually have such a story. There is no one event that occurred in my life to make me wake up one morning and think, ‘Ok, today I’m going to become become an End of Life Planning Coach’.
That’s not what happened. The truth is my ‘story’ is very ordinary and in some ways really rather boring.
When I was very young, I was naturally very interested in the ‘big questions’. Things like, ‘Where did we come from? Why are we here? What happens after we die?’ etc.
I was fascinated by those questions from a very young age. Also, I wasn’t afraid of death.
I have no explanation for this, I just didn’t see it as something to be feared but rather something that happens to all of us. Extremely sad and often accompanied by painful feelings but nonetheless, natural.
And that raised a lot of curiosity within me. I spent quite a lot of my education thinking about these topics, reflecting on them and wondering what the answers to those ‘big questions’ might be.
There was a point during my studies that when I realised that I probably would never have those answers, at least, not in a definitive way.
However, I was comfortable with knowing that because what really mattered to me was remembering to ask the questions, continuing to be curious.
After leaving university and entering into the workplace, I spent a number of years, on and off, volunteering with various organisations alongside the ‘day job’.
As I got older, I realised that I wanted those two things to come together more – to be able to spend my time helping people in a more meaningful and purpose-driven way.
I wanted the work that I do, and how I spend the majority of my time to really matter; to be able to try and help and support people in the best way that I know how.
I actually started my professional life as a librarian and in many ways what I do now I see as a natural extension of that.
A library is a safe space where absolutely anyone is welcome. Libraries are for everybody. They’re inclusive, and their purpose is to enable anyone to find and access the information that they are looking for.
This idea of inclusivity around access to information was really important to me when I was a librarian and remains important to me now. I believe that good, reliable, authoritative information should be accessible to everybody.
And that includes knowing about the choices and options available to us as we approach the end of our life. This is both in terms of what is possible, as well as what steps can be taken to ensure that you have as good a death as possible.
I fundamentally believe that it is every person’s right to have a good death, in whatever way that is meaningful for them.
And in providing information – in acting as a signpost – and helping people to finding those answers that are right for them, then I believe we all stand a much better chance of having the kind of death we would hope for.
And that’s why I became an End of Life Planning Coach.
My background is in processes, information management and making sure that you have the knowledge you need to make an informed decision in any given situation.
But my interest in those ‘big questions’ has never gone away.
I still wonder where we came from, why we’re here and what happens after death. I don’t have those answers, but that’s ok because the bit that I do know, is that we are all going to die.
Whatever comes next isn’t changed or shaped by the fact that one day, the person we see in the mirror, and the body that they are in, will be no more.
I recognise that that is incredibly uncomfortable, if not scary, for some people. There is so much uncertainty and uncertainty is often accompanied by fear.
There are lots of aspects around death and dying that I am fearful of that’s ok. Because what fear allows us to do is ask questions.
And when we ask questions, we seek answers and in doing so, we inform ourselves about the choices available to us which can help things become just a little less scary.
And that’s my job. I am a librarian for End of Life Planning. I don’t have all the answers, but I work with people who come into my ‘library’ with questions.
I create a safe space for them to be able to ask those questions, support them in exploring the possible answers and help them find the information they need so that they can understand what is right for them.
So as you can see, I have no great story, no big event to share.
I just believe that information matters at every stage of our journey – and that includes the very end of our life.
And if I can help even one person to increase their chances of having a good death, then I will have done my job with both privilege and honour.
Until next time, take care.