The following reflection is from an anonymous supporter of Irish Hospice Foundation. She recalls helping her dad complete a Think Ahead Planning Pack on Christmas Day 2020, and how when he sadly died in September 2023, it helped her fulfil his after-death wishes.
Covid forced my 70-year-old dad to consider his own mortality. He became very occupied by ventilator supply and what would happen if he became seriously unwell. Despite being in great health, he updated his will and began dropping his death into conversation.
Dad was a planner. He was organised and kept fastidious records. And, while I wanted to be supportive, the almost daily discussion around funeral music (Joe Dolan, Toby Keith) and available cash (in a ceramic teapot) was hard going.
So I ordered a Think Ahead Planning Pack . . .
It was made for Dad. There was a place for everything; he wrote notes on the house and car insurance and took time to consider each page. Christmas Day 2020 was quiet. Covid meant my brother and sister-in-law stayed in Scotland. Dad and I drank a bottle of wine and then broke out Think Ahead. We had great fun. Slightly tipsy, he decided red wine would be mission critical if he ever had to move to long-term care. Over FaceTime, my brother said we weren’t very festive; he suggested we return to the tin of Roses and abandon planning Dad’s demise.
I forgot about Think Ahead until September 2023.
Dad had been diagnosed with two brain tumours and was about to have surgery. He was sick and confused. The night before his surgery, we were chatting, and he suddenly said, “What if I don’t wake up?” He began talking about the teapot, insurance and his funeral. I told him it was ok because I had his Think Ahead Planning Pack (or “the green book”, as he called it). I reminded him that he had everything written down and he was immediately comforted.
Dad’s illness was short and shocking. He died 10 weeks after I first called an ambulance.
Think Ahead was my guide in those 10 weeks. It reminded me that music was important, and we had lovely afternoons listening to his favourite music in the last weeks of his life. When Dad died, Think Ahead helped me plan the funeral. I loved turning the page to find something written in his handwriting and remembering the fun we had filling it in that Christmas Day.
Grief feels overwhelming at the moment. I miss Dad every day. But knowing that I was able to fulfil his wishes, in both life and death, provides comfort. The things we discussed while filling in his Think Ahead Planning Pack felt like decades away. I thought I’d be telling him to get down off a ladder at 90, not holding his hand in a hospice at 73.
I think if Dad were here, he would advise everyone to fill in that “green book” this Christmas.
The Think Ahead Planning Pack is a practical tool and customisable guide for advance care planning and end of life. It is a place to record your preferences and choices for your future care through illness, end of life and after death. To download a free pack or have one posted to you, visit Get My Think Ahead Planning Pack.