Ask an expert - Kimberly Paul, end of life planning advocate

How do

we live like

we're dying?

"There's a lot more things scarier than death," remarked author, speaker and podcaster Kimberly Paul.

Like suffering, for instance. Paul thinks people often conflate the two, so many avoid facing the truth that one's life will end.

"We're all dying. How do we live with the knowledge that we are dying every day? Would that change the way that we live? If we can get enough people to think about their mortality every day, our priorities would be a little more in lines with who are and who we want to be."

JourneyCare has invited Paul to give two presentations Thursday, Sept. 26 at The Community House in Hinsdale. The lunch program is entitled "Live Well Die Well: A Journey to Find Connection Personally and Professionally," and her dinner talk is on "Following Your Curiosity: Being Brave is Scary" (see Page 28 for details).

Her book "Bridging the Gap" and podcast "Death by Design" are other outgrowths of her calling in this arena after working in hospice care for almost 20 years. Paul said the stories she heard from patients about death and dying enlivened her resolve to make every moment matter.

"I found myself at their bedsides, learning a hell of a lot more about life than about death," she said.

The most convicting lesson for her was to shift her focus off of collecting more stuff and on to connecting with more souls.

"The goal in life is to connect with other human beings. It's about having relationships," Paul said.

The relationships that truly give meaning and quality to life, she stressed, include the transactional yet intimate ones with caregivers who help shepherd people through the final stages. One of her missions is to combat the "compassion fatigue" among those who work in hospice and palliative care.

"People are leaving the field every day because they cannot deal with the grief of seeing their patients' dying," Paul said, "I want someone to be there when I'm dying. How do we better take of those who are taking care of those who are dying?"

She's currently trekking across all 50 states and Canada in her RV to "educate communities, help people feel more comfortable talking about end of life, and empower individuals to reclaim death as a human experience and not a medical event."

It's not exactly the travel experience she always dreamed about.

"It is absolutely scary," Paul admitted, noting that her "Following Your Curiosity" program deals with her journey.

"I'm on a mission that's larger than me. I think people forget that living outside of your comfort zone is scary."

She said the losses she has grieved give her motivation to equip others with the tools - like advance directives - and the vision to live with no regrets.

"I want people to walk away, hopefully thinking, 'I feel empowered to live. How do I change my life in order to live well?' " she said. "I'm trying to inspire people to realize that (life) will end and that they need to plan for the end of life as well as live life."

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean