The year of AT PEACE and what comes next

With our daughter Eliza, a neonatologist at Yale Bridgeport Hospital, before my Grand Rounds talk.

The year of AT PEACE is coming to a close. For those of you who hope this means I will be changing my email signature promoting my book – think again. No, it means that I will not be scheduling small group talks at churches, libraries and senior living centers. I will be open to new opportunities to promote better end-of-life decision-making, but I will be freeing up my schedule from book talk commitments to be more flexible for new adventures with family and friends.

Besides, the only time that I want to do podcasts and hold discussion groups is at 7 AM, when I am at my best, and the only time that audiences want to be entertained is at 7 PM, when I want to be winding down. Hey, I live in Down East Maine. Here, the saying goes, “9 PM is midnight.”

It has been a good year, though.  I have done dozens of podcasts and given presentations – large and small – at libraries, churches, hospitals and senior living residences. I have spoken to groups of doctors and lawyers. I have interviewed patients, volunteers, and physicians involved with medical aid in dying (the new acronym is LPHD – Lawful Physician-Hastened Death). And, I was a “keynote” speaker at a caregiving conference in Chicago.

Although podcasts, senior living facilities, and church groups were very similar in terms of presentation and preparation (with respect to the latter it was a question of preaching to the choir as these groups are quite open to end-of-life discussions), the other venues each supplied their own challenges.

Talking to lawyers

In full marketing mode at the University Club Annual Book Fair in D.C.

Talking to a group of lawyers involves convincing them that Advance Directives matter, not because (as they firmly and mistakenly believe) doctors routinely read them before making decisions, but because families who have well crafted advance directives suffer less guilt, anxiety, stress, and depression when they make the difficult, final decisions compared to families who are floundering with indecision and argumentative relatives.

When I spoke to a group of estate planners in Milwaukee, one of the lawyers remembered, appreciatively, working with my father, who spent his career there as a trusts and estates lawyer.  His thoughtful comments created a nice postlude to the evening and brought the book full circle, so to speak.

Talking to doctors

Talking to a group of doctors involves convincing them that they can break free of the test and treat paradigm and broach the topic of what to do when treatment is going to fail to make a significant difference. In these venues, the older physicians tended to nod in agreement. The younger physicians nodded from sleep deprivation.

My conference keynote experience

Conference keynote: I am a gray speck on the ballroom stage, looking at a lot of empty seats.

My keynote in Chicago (actually a convention hotel near O’Hare Airport) was the nadir of the fall season. It was set for 11 AM in the main ballroom which could accommodate 300 conventioneers.  Unfortunately, because there were so many breakout groups competing for the attendees’ attentions, the ballroom was nearly empty. It was very difficult to be excited while speaking to a vacant lot and I know that I did not rise to the occasion. I did get to commiserate at the bar that evening with another conventioneer (a minister from Brooklyn) and we both noted that the other keynoters were also ignored by their audiences.

Most gratifying: letters from readers

Throughout the year, I have found comfort in the number of people who have communicated to me with notes of gratitude for the guidance that the book has offered them. And I am pleasantly surprised at the number of people who have bought multiple copies for distribution, usually to family members to insure a common ground and understanding for their conversations.

What’s next in 2019

The La Grua Center in Stonington, CT

But as one year ends and another begins, I am looking forward to 2019. I will be joining a group of authors and academics at a symposium at the BU School of Public Health in early February – a new and interesting challenge. And I am in contact with a community college in the mid-Atlantic who asked me to speak to their graduating class of healthcare paraprofessionals, although this might founder because there is no accommodation for a bookseller or other reasonable compensation.

Who knows what else the New Year has to offer? Perhaps one of you can get me on Oprah. In the meanwhile, Debbie and I are looking forward to February and March in Brooklyn and pondering more exotic travel later in the spring. I am considering more writing projects and more commitments to end-of-life activities in Maine. Please get in touch.

Please write an Amazon review

If you’ve read my book (and purchased it on Amazon), please write a review. I’ve got almost 50 reviews and am shooting for 100. Even a few sentences is helpful. Thank you in advance for continuing to help spread the word.

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