April 16, 2014 is National Healthcare Decisions Day!

Bridge on the Maigue at Adare Manor

Bridge on the Maigue at Adare Manor

What, you say you haven’t yet seen the greeting card celebrating this event?  Well, it might contain a warm greeting along the lines of “thank you” if someone you love has executed a health care power of attorney or other important medical decision-making document.  It could express this sentiment of gratitude for the peace of mind that comes from advance planning so as to preempt any emergencies that often give rise to stress and conflict.

Really – I don’t think the greeting card idea is that far-fetched . . . !

Okay, back to the title of this post.  You can visit the national site for the 7th Annual National Healthcare Decisions Day here.  You can also visit the Colorado local Life Quality Institute’s link to their very informative page about advance planning and that page has Colorado specific documents.  Keep in mind that each state has its own laws around advance planning and patient self-determination, so it’s good to have a state-appropriate document!

Some of you have heard about the Denver Death Café, a place to chat about end-of-life issues and mortality.

A good resource to help people get started in the often difficult conversation around end-of-life wishes is The Conversation Project, started by journalist Ellen Goodman.  The project recognizes the important fact that most people recognize that making sure family members aren’t burdened by difficult decisions around end-of-life care, but that not nearly as many of the folks who think the conversation is important have actually had that conversation.

Each of us knows our days are numbered, but like so many people, we get caught up in our daily life tasks and we often neglect the important tasks in favor of the urgent ones.  One easy way to get started in Colorado is to go on the DMV site and add an emergency contact to your driving record.  Once you do this, you might consider becoming an organ donor if you don’t already have that little heart on your driver’s license.  The next step is a conversation with family members about the “what if’s” and the “this is what I want when . . . “If you start small, it may not seem like such a daunting task.  Besides, there is lots of support available to you if you are inclined to have the conversation.

We are all familiar with the expression “carpe diem” the Latin term for seize the day.  Its origin (according to Wikipedia) traces back to Book 1, number 11 of the Odes, written (in Latin) by the poet Horace.  The expression has come to mean “embrace life” because how much time we have left is uncertain.  I think the broad usage of this expression, which appears on bumper sticker and T-shirts, is an important message but that it has perhaps become watered down to suit the purposes of advertising. . . .

So I will introduce a “new” ancient term for purposes of my blog post today about paying attention to opportunities: kairos.  Kairos is a definition of time.  We are all familiar with the English words based on its Greek counterpart chronos, but very few are aware of kairos, this other term for time.  I have to say at this point that I am grateful for having studied a few foreign languages in my life, as I have been able to develop a sense for how the world is viewed differently by the speakers of a particular language.  We so often mistake our world for what we call it and how we name it.  We often forget all the myriad ways of apprehending and encountering all the familiar as well as the unfamiliar.

As Wikipedia points out:

The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time lapse, a moment of indeterminate time in which everything happens. What is happening when referring to kairos depends on who is using the word. While chronos is quantitative, kairos has a qualitative, permanent nature. Kairos also means weather in both ancient and modern Greek. The plural, καιροί (kairoi (Ancient Gk. and Mod. Gk.)) means the times.

This idea of time is a new concept for most of us – that there is a notion of time that is non-linear, and of a quality as opposed to quantity.  Most of us live by chronos, chronological time, but there are other aspects and qualities of time.  English does not carry the distinctions that are implicit in other languages.  In this respect of counting, of numbered days, chronos (NOT to be confused with Kronos or Cronus for you mythology lovers) may be a harbinger of death, as it is finite for each of us in this life.

But what about kairos, what kind of time, the quality of our existence, not its measure?  For many of us, this simply doesn’t count because it doesn’t “add up” and we can’t readily exchange it as the reducible currency of so much of our modern existence.  How many instances of “right now” are there in an hour? What is the present as something measurable if we are always counting the past and measuring the future?  Kairos represents the quality of time as immeasurable, an eternal right now that is the only time that we really have.  The chronological time is what we count, not what we experienced or will experience.

I have written about kairos in a previous blog post and will undoubtedly write more about it in the future.  In the meantime, take this opportunity to live in kairos and have the difficult conversation on this day!

©Barbara Cashman 2013     www.DenverElderLaw.org


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