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Monday, October 1, 2012

A Conversation With Dad About Life’s End

Charlie Ritz and Carey Goldberg, father and daughter, having a conversation about end of life choices (George Hicks/WBUR)

There’s a subject most of us say is extremely important: making sure our family is not burdened by difficult end-of-life decisions.

A recent survey by the California Health Foundation found that 60 percent of people feel that way. But the survey also finds that 56 percent of people have not communicated end-of-life wishes.

A national initiative, recently launched by a group of media and medical professionals, encourages conversations about end of life care well in advance.

It’s called “The Conversation Project” and it aims to get families and loved ones talking about the kind of care they want at the end of their lives. One of the tools of “The Conversation Project” is a starter kit of questions. Carey Goldberg, co-host of WBUR’s Commonhealth Blog, sat down with her 85-year-old dad Charlie Ritz, who felt it was an important conversation.

“It’s important to me that you…if you have to help me in any way, that there’s no guilt involved, that my wishes are what’s involved here,” Ritz said.

Goldberg said that though she hesitated at first, it was a relief to get the topic out in the open.

“I had worried about the responsibility of having to maybe take measures to make decisions that would mean the final end for him,” she told WBUR’s Radio Boston. “So this conversation clarified for me that a real priority for him was for me to not feel guilt, and that felt very freeing. That made me realize that I only need to do what really feels right for me while keeping his wishes in mind, so it actually lifted a load from me.”


  • Carey Goldberg, co-host of WBUR’s Commonhealth Blog, and her 85-year-old dad Charley Ritz decided to give it a try

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  • Maarten

    OK Ms. Young,
    “Consider the Conversation” (PBS-documentary) is another tool to start this very important interaction between generations. I would love to start a national conference between parents and their off-spring, but, as you as you mentioned, people are reluctant to have this essential dialogue. Colleges should have (mandatory) courses on the subject of “End of Life”.
    See, Ms. Young, we, in this society love to say “Hello” to life but hate (and therefore avoid) saying “Good-bye!” and as a result we are many times left with painful memories outdoing the good ones. So, where do I start? My town is very conservative and free flowing discussions on this subject are difficult. Even members of organizations like “Compassion and Choices” are reluctant to come together fearing public scrutiny!

    Thanks for doing your part or at least some of it,
    Best regards,
    Maarten Pennink
    1712 Garden Terrace
    Charlotte, NC 28203

    • Faith Bieler

      I am on the “home stretch” myself.  And while in great health I want  to prepare my 3 children and myself for my inevitable passage.    Of course we all love to say “yes “to life, live fully as best we can.  Now let us know /learn how to leave, not with “yes” , we don’t want to leave, but smoothly and peacefully, as best we can.
      The Conversation Project described on  “here and Now” today gave me ideas.  I’m ready for more ideas.  I would love to hear of more projects, programs, conferences to help myself and others. 

  • Joanna Halinski

    I enjoyed this very much – a beautiful relationship between a Father and Daughter and an open conversation about how much you really love one another and siblings and all extended family members!  A difficult conversation, but look at how much beauty and love came to light from it.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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