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Reflections from a Tropical Island

Leah and I are finishing up an anniversary getaway at our rental “home away from home” on the north shore of Kauai. The cottage that we’ve been to every few years since early 2000s, sits back against a steep jungle hillside and looks directly out to the Pacific from our second floor lanai. Today, Leah is off to check out a terrific local thrift store and I get some “me” time at the cottage… cooking dinner, finishing a good book, and now plinking away on my iPad figuring out what I want to share with my fellow Villagers.

And sure enough, I seem to always come back to the challenges of living fully and dying well…when that time comes. Each of us has our journey that evolves over the years with our family backgrounds, circumstances, decisions along the way, moments of joy and accomplishment and moments of disappointment, loss, and grief. You really can’t get to our age without some or all of that shaping how we are today…and what may lie ahead.

Some of you have participated in my workshops about advance care planning, a book discussion about “Finishing Strong”, or a zoom presentation about our end-of-life options. You may be aware that a year ago the NM Legislature passed and the Gov. MLG signed the Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act which authorized an additional option, medical aid in dying. Since then some of my fellow advocates have switched gears to form a new non-profit, End of Life Options NM ( to provide public outreach and education about advance care planning and assist individuals and their loved ones understand their choices in order to have the kind of death they wish. Its not easy and there are no guarantees, but for those who care to put some energy into exploring one’s values and thinking things through before a crisis hits, the more likely that they will be prepared for what may be around the corner…

National Healthcare Decisions Day

Each year on April 16th, the day after tax day, the nation celebrates National Healthcare Decisions Day - the purpose of which is to inspire, educate, and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance healthcare planning.

And the key to all of this is understanding that each of us have a right to self-determination regarding medical decisions. That right is reflected in federal law and rules for Medicare/Medicaid, but also clearly articulated in New Mexico’s Uniform Healthcare Decisions Act that was enacted in 1995. It gives us the right to make decisions about what medical care we want, when and where to have it, and if and when to stop that care. And if we become incapacitated the law provides that we can express these desires ahead of time through an advance directive and also appoint a health care decision-maker (proxy, surrogate, or health care power of attorney) to represent us if we are unable to do so for ourselves. These are powerful rights that afford us the opportunity to avoid unnecessary/unwanted suffering at the end of life and help us to have the kind of death we seek. April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day which exists to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning. Its a good time to take action for yourself and for your loved ones.

So, as we begin to pack for our trip back to Santa Fe, Leah and I count our many blessings in these challenging times with so much divisiveness in our country and so much unnecessary misery, death and destruction across the globe. Gratitude and thankfulness can be a guide as we work to bridge that chasm of living well and fully in the mostly loving community that surrounds us in Santa Fe, while staying aware, knowledgeable and sensitive to the harsh struggles of others in the greater world. Its a worthy challenge to stay balanced and keep the faith. Onward my friends…

Barak Wolff and wife Leah Popp are long time Villagers who have lived on a ridge top in Tesuque for the last 40+ years. Barak in a founding Board Member of End of Life Options NM and is available to assist with advance care planning and/or end of life issues. (


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