Dori Bush had written her own obituary before she sat down that Sunday.
It was June, and a workshop called “Making Your Wishes Known” was being held after services at the Unitarian Church.
Bush was curious, so she stuck around.
She wasn’t alone.
More than 50 people attended the 2 1/2-hour entree into the legal, medical and social considerations of serious illness.
“We were surprised to see so many people show up,” said organizer Stacie Sinclair. “The feedback we got was really positive and people were engaged.”
So much so that the workshop is returning in December.
This time, it will be spread over four Monday evenings — participants can pick and choose the sessions they’d like to attend. They're free and open to the public.
And Bush can recommend the workshop.
“I went for a couple of reasons. One, I’m a firm believer that if you have something that can help someone else, you need to share that. Two, I think Stacie is just the bee’s knees. I’d go to anything she put on.”
Along with being the bee’s knees, Sinclair is a senior policy manager for the New York-based Center to Advance Palliative Care and vice-chair of the Nebraska Palliative Care and Quality of Life Advisory Council.
She’s also married to Oscar Sinclair, minister of the Unitarian Church of Lincoln.
The East Coast couple fell in love with the city when they arrived in 2017, Sinclair said.
And so when church member Judy Hart approached her about leading the workshop — to help fellow baby boomer members dealing with serious illness, the health care system and end of life — Sinclair was happy to help.
“The more you can think about these issues and talk to your family about them, the more likely you are to have the experience you want,” she said.
It’s that simple.
And yet, it’s so hard.
“It really seems like in society writ large, there is still a lot of stigma about talking about end-of-life issues. We wanted to have a safe space to have that conversation about existential issues.”
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And the practical ones, too.
Everything from advance directives to knowing who you’d be comfortable with helping you bathe or use the bathroom.
Sinclair enlisted attorney and friend Amy Miller to help lead the workshop and they put together a program — both practical and philosophical — while their engaged audience asked questions and shared their own experiences with loved ones.
They talked about the right forms to fill out. “But if you haven’t communicated that to your loved ones, the odds of that happening are slim.”
And they talked about deeper issues, faith and feelings. “Things that don’t fill out a blank on a form.”
For the December workshops, Marcia Cederdahl, a hospice and palliative care nurse for nearly 25 years, will join them.
“She is also a cancer survivor and lost a brother to cancer,” Sinclair said. “She rounds out our team.”
The expanded format includes an introductory session on Dec. 2. Week 2 features The Hello Game, developed by experts in the palliative care field, to help get people thinking about and becoming comfortable with difficult conversations. Dec. 16 is time and space to get end-of-life wishes down on paper.
A discussion of “Being Mortal,” by Atul Gawande — the One Book-One Lincoln selection in 2016 — will round out the final week.
“Oscar will also come in to hear how he as a minister can support people,” Sinclair said.
Dori Bush took a lot of wisdom home with her last June.
She’d lost her husband, David, to kidney cancer in 2014. The Hall County District judge was sick for more than three years and she remembers the day she was with one of her sons, filling the car with gas.
“I thought, ‘My gosh, we don’t even have a burial plot, and this was a month before he died.’”
Bush thought about her own mortality during that time of grief, too, part of the reason she wrote her obituary — and told her fellow church members about it during the workshop.
“My sons had already lost one parent. I didn’t want them to struggle when the time comes.”
She plans to attend a session or two of “Making Your Wishes Known” in December, to learn more and share what’s helped her.
And she’s already made her wishes known to her youngest son, who lives nearby.
“Tyler, if something happens to me before I get everything done, just go to the middle drawer of the hutch.”
Reach the writer at 402-473-7218 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @TheRealCLK