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Christopher McGowan is dying to talk

Christoper McGowan would like to visit the village in Cambodia that he and his wife sponsor.

Christopher McGowan has been CEO of Silver Chain Group for 10 years. Having the opportunity to die at home with his daughters caring for him, in the same place where he cared for them, is important to him.

Here, he answers questions from the Dying to Talk Discussion Starter. For support in discussing your end-of-life wishes with your loved ones, download it from www.dyingtotalk.org.au

If you had a condition that you could not recover from, what would be important to you, towards the end of your life?

I would want to know that my children are facing into life with confidence. I would like to reflect and know that my life has had purpose and it’s been a little bit impactful — for the better. I would like my family to see my passing is a natural thing and cope well. I would be delighted if my final days were as much a celebration of my life as saying goodbye.

Most importantly, I would like to die at home. I would like my daughters, aged 26, 23 and 21, to be caring for me in the place where I cared for them. I see myself as being defined by the roles I have played in my life: husband, brother, father and friend. Surrounded by the artefacts of these roles in my home I know I will maintain all my human dignity. To be honest, being cared for at my most vulnerable by my children in my home will be the most dignified moment of my life.

Is there anyone particular you would like to see or talk to?

I know as I slip into my last few days, the thought of talking to my father again will fill me with hope and optimism. He passed away after a long period with heart disease. I was away when he died of a heart attack and so I didn’t get to say goodbye. He was literally a rocket scientist before retiring and he was very conscious that he was ‘writing his final chapter’. He had had several heart attacks and had asked to not be resuscitated – so he went on his own terms. But I’ll miss him until I die.

Would you prefer to be surrounded by lots of family and friends, or would you prefer one or two closest people to be with you?

I’m from a large family so I enjoy having lots of family and close friends around me. I would love this.

I would not like people I’m not particularly close to dropping in to visit and say their goodbyes. Being slightly introverted, I’d rather avoid performing the niceties of casual conversation for acquaintances. But close friends and family talking amongst themselves, not only about my life or circumstance but just about life in general, would be wonderful.

Assuming I would be fatigued, I would like time when there was quiet; one-on-one time with those I love (my wife, my three daughters, six brothers and sisters, and dear friends). I would also like some raucous noise while reflecting on memories and significant times in our family.

Would you like music to be playing and if so, what style or what music?

I’m a bit indifferent about music but if it were playing I’d want a combination of classical guitar and ’80s-’90s rock music.

If possible, would it be important to you to have time outside?

Yes, I would enjoy some time outside if the weather was conducive. I am sure once I knew that death was inevitable I would opt for maximising comfort and quality of life rather than invasive treatments. This would allow me to continue to experience the outdoors and remain as independent as I can for as long as possible.

Are there any cultural or religious practices you would like to observe?

While I was brought up a Catholic I don’t subscribe to many of the doctrines of the Catholic Church. However, it is my spiritual tradition and I still find great solace in many of its practices. I would seek a Catholic funeral, though I do not pretend to understand the other world.

What is on your bucket list of things you would like to do or achieve before you die?

There are a lot of things I wish to do before I die: way too numerous to mention them all here although a few are really important to me. My wife and I are sponsoring a village of about 250 families in Cambodia (Prey Ampot) and I want to get back there to see how it has developed – particularly the children’s education. I want to make a really good Chardonnay on my little property in Currency Creek, South Australia. Of course, I also want to see my girls grow to be confident, contented women – maybe with my grandchildren. In retirement, I look forward to working on my small farm, where I can enjoy a simple daily rhythm and drink in the peace of the land.

How did you feel during the process of completing this form? Was there anything about the process that interested or surprised you?

Of course, as CEO of Silver Chain Group, I think about these things a lot. Most of what I put here I’ve thought long and hard about over many years.


Comments

  • Hi there, I think you have mentioned one of the most difficult to deal with things about friends dying, how to say goodbye and yet be respectful of the person's desires, and the family's wishes. I found myself trying to farewell a friend who I sang with who was dying slowly but kept being put off and put off until the very end when I fell to pieces on seeing her which didn't help her in the last 48 hours of her life. Then I had a friend who, while still alive but very ill, got her family to organise a get together for all her friends from her different groups, and she recorded a video which was played to all of us. There was a guest book in which we could sign and write last messages to her in, there were photos of her life and a biography. And there were tissues... She wasn't there physically, but because she was still alive, we felt we had personally said goodbye. Took the family a lot of courage to do this, but she wanted it to happen. Any other suggestions that can be made to help friends in this situation would be useful.

    - Kirsty Harris

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