The news of David Bowie’s death reverberated around the world. Waking to the news of his death on 10 January 2016, fans around the world grieved the loss of a musical hero who provided the soundtrack to their lives.
Whether you’re a fan or not, it’s hard to deny that David Bowie was a true artist. Immensely talented, he sustained a career over many decades and had a unique ability to reinvent himself. He managed his music and image with precision, and he managed his death in the same way. He died in a way that many of us would want for ourselves – at home surrounded by family and loved ones.
David Bowie achieved a ‘good death’ because he planned for it. As with his artistic life, he faced death by controlling the things he could. He told only a trusted few that he was dying. He kept working as long as he could, even releasing a last album as a goodbye message to his fans three days before he died – something not likely to have been a coincidence. And he died in a place of his choosing.
There’s a common misconception that you can’t control death. Yes, for some it comes shockingly and unexpectedly. But for others like David Bowie facing a final illness, there are are options that can be discussed and implemented to ensure a ‘good death’.
A ‘good death’
David Bowie was able to ensure he experienced a ‘good death’. But what exactly does that mean?
Last year, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine identified 10 core themes associated with dying well:
- To have control over the process of dying
- To be pain free
- To be engaged with religiousity and spirituality
- To experience emotional wellbeing
- To have a sense of life completion and legacy
- To have a choice in treatment preferences
- To experience dignity in the dying process
- To have family present and be able to say goodbye
- To have quality of life in the process
- To have a good relationship with health care providers
According to the researchers, people generally know what they want or need in the lead up to their death and there’s a relief in talking about it. It gives them a sense of control and it allows them to plan ahead.
Planning to die well
We spend a considerable amount of time planning birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. But have you ever thought about how you would like to die?
While we’re all familiar with the idea of living well, dying well is a bit of a strange concept. Our superstitions and fears about dying, and the discomfort we feel about discussing death, often mean we avoid the topic completely.
But it’s important to be able to talk about death. While some of our family and friends find it uncomfortable, we need to talk openly so we can plan for a ‘good death’. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary. Here are a few things you may want to think about.
Sometimes the easiest place to start is by planning for your estate and finances.
Do you have a valid and up-to-date will? Is there a power of attorney in place? Where do you keep your insurance documents? What are your bank account details? These are all important things to consider, so share this information with someone you trust.
Medical advances mean that it’s possible for someone to be kept alive for an extended period of time in circumstances where they would have previously died quickly. This sets the stage for potential ethical and legal issues about your rights and those of your family, so it’s important to discuss medical and healthcare options.
What medical treatments are acceptable to you? Do you want to be resuscitated if you stop breathing or your heart stops? It’s important to document your wishes in the correct legal and medical way. You may also want to consider putting an advanced care directive in place.
Planning your own funeral doesn’t need to be sad. Think of it as a way to make important decisions and arrangements yourself and save your family the emotional burden.
What sort of service do you want? Do you want to be buried or cremated? Who should attend? What music do you want played? Who should give the eulogy? These are just some of the questions you need to think about.
We will all respond differently when we face death. But being able to control what we can is important. Dying is normal and death will come to all of us eventually. There’s no escaping it.
Dying peacefully at home, David Bowie planned his death with the same meticulousness as he planned his brilliant career. He took control in death, just as he took control in life. We can all learn a lesson from this.
For more information about planning ahead, please contact the Walter Carter Funerals team by emailing [email protected] and we’ll help you find the services and resources you need.