End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’by Sonja


When Marcia and her husband recently moved to Florida (“so we could be outdoors more”) she realized she needed to find a volunteer situation that meant a lot to her.  Compassion & Choices looked appealing and she offered to volunteer if there was a local organization in Florida. At the time there was not. But Community Relations Coordinator Roland Halpern knew a dynamo when he talked to one, so he asked if she’d consider leading a new group. “After I decided to do that, he sent me materials about how to have your first meeting and how to start it.”

Roland helped by sending invitations to local interested residents and found a meeting room at the Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater. National Field Coordinator Brandi Alexander attended the initial Clearwater meeting, and she now helps Marcia connect and share ideas with other leaders of local groups across the country.

The Clearwater group has met regularly since that first meeting in March; already 30 or 40 people come to each meeting. “We had the lawyer in the Terri Schiavo case and the head of the ethics committee for the large hospital conglomerate in this area, and both were terrific meetings. They answered a lot of questions about DNRs and what goes on in hospitals. We just have a really good group of people that are helpful.” One, a former physician, led the discussion at their August meeting on how to talk with your doctor.

Marcia was a professional social worker, working for some time in hospice. She led a bereavement group for a while. “That’s the thing that’s weird about me. I can’t talk about American Idol or The Voice or any of the stuff on TV. I like to talk about death and dying. It’s such a turn-on, right?” Marcia laughs, but quickly continues her thought. “The nice thing I learned when I worked at hospice, I guess, is that when you’re faced with death, all the phoniness drops away. It doesn’t bother me to talk about it, and I don’t want to pretend that it’s not going to be there. I want to do what I can do to make it good for me and for our children, and for whichever one of us is left. I don’t want to leave people in a mess.”