group conversating at purple table

How do you start talking about the end of life? While it may be viewed as a taboo topic, it does not necessarily always have to be a morbid thing to talk about each other’s preferences and thoughts. One casual way to have conversations about end of life is by playing a card game called The Death Deck. The Death Deck is a simple card game with both open-ended and multiple choice prompts that engage people in various topics surrounding end of life. 

           This game was put to the test by Keiro staff, who may be familiar with the topic of death but may not be used to talking about it amongst themselves. Makoto Kotani, Beverly Ito, and Michelle Obi were handpicked to play The Death Deck. Take a look at some of their conversations based on these prompts. How would you answer these questions?

The World’s Toughest Job

For some prompts, it was more difficult for staff to select one answer: 

The hardest part of caregiving for my terminally ill partner would be:

  • Feeling helpless and unable to control everything
  • The physical challenge of caring for them 24/7
  • Watching them in physical and emotional pain

Beverly: Can we say all of the above? Especially with a life partner, it would be hard to go through any of those phases. To watch somebody that you care about very deeply decline, and you really have no control over that. It would be very difficult.

Michelle: I think they all go hand in hand, one leads to another. I am very much a planner…They are emotionally and physically in pain, and there is nothing I can do about it. 

Makoto: I would say for me it would be the helplessness too. You can be there for them, you can support them, but not being able to help the situation would be the most challenging for me.

Practicality over Price?

Money matters can be sometimes be sticky, but it is important to discuss so everyone is on the same page:

You’re approaching the end of life. Others are making your health care decisions. Should price factor in?

  • Yes. Don’t blow through my saving to prolong the inevitable
  • In moderation. Necessary expenses are fine.
  • Spare no expense buying me every extra second.

Beverly: For me it comes down to quality of life. This is one of those questions that you really need to talk to your family about. I have had many conversations with my two daughters about what interventions I would not want to prolong my life if there is no quality to it. 

Makoto: How would you say those conversations with your family have gone with your daughters?

Beverly: I think they have gone really well because they have known that this is what I dealt with throughout my career. They agree if the essence of me is no longer there that they shouldn’t do anything to extend my life. 

A Toast to Loved Ones

Many of the questions brought contemplation, and as the conversation went on, all three opened up and, at times, became emotional:

Oh, wise one.

Talk about a person in your life who you would consider wise. What have you gained from them?

Makoto: [My mom] built in me my work ethics and how I go about my day to day and my lifestyle. She was really tough on me growing up and would say she would never hire me to work for her. It really drove me to ask what kind of person I should be to be able to work for my mom. I think me being 31 years old now and my mom seeing me become a parent, I feel like she would say she is proud of me.

Michelle: I would say my mom as well. She is my best friend and has taught me everything that I know now. I look to her for a lot of guidance and she is definitely someone that has a lot of experience and world knowledge. 

Beverly: I would have to say my dad. He was kind of tough on us growing up, and I always thought that I wanted to reach his expectations. He would show us love later on in life by writing us letters all the time. He was really wise though, and he passed on his life experiences so that we wouldn’t have to repeat some of the hardships he had gone through. 

The Big Picture

The Death Deck made attendees reflect on mortality and what’s important to them in life. Here are some concluding thoughts they shared:

Michelle: Me thinking about my own death makes me think about my parents and my brother. I always call my mom and dad just to hear their voices because at some point you won’t get to do that. If I am going to go, I am going to go. But it makes you realize what you are affecting and leaving behind.

Beverly: I have been saying recently that I have a lot more years behind me than I have ahead of me. So I understand that I am closer to the end of life. And I’m thinking about what more I want to accomplish and how I want to live the rest of my life. I have no regrets so I can let go knowing that I lived the life I wanted.

Makoto: I would say for myself I probably don’t talk about it enough or consider talking about it enough. Maybe it is a taboo subject but it should be a topic to discuss so you can have some ideas of preferences. It might be better to talk about it right now when you have time than…when it is already too late. This conversation for me has helped me to frame things in a way to be more open about talking.

Overall, the card game helped Keiro staff open up and share about death and dying in a fun