JACKSON, Wyo. — Dealing with death can be one of the most difficult events to go through in life, but one Jackson woman is sharing a story on how you can take control of your dying.
Two years ago Lynn Sherwood received a devastating call from her daughter saying she had cancer. Five months, one week, and three days later, Sherwood held her daughter’s hand as she took her last breath.
But that wasn’t the end for how she would remember her daughter, who inspires those going through the same tragic flow of life that they can design their dying.
Sherwood has been featured as a TEDx Speaker, with her talk released on Monday, December 14. In “Happier Endings – How to Design Your Dying,” Lynn talks about the loss of her daughter Lauren to cancer two years ago and offers a hopeful message to listeners through her story, “We are all going to die – let’s do it better!”
“None of us really know that we even have tomorrow, so why not talk about the things that might bring us joy or comfort at the end of our days, weeks, years – before we can’t?” said Sherwood. “Or talk about what we really don’t want? And what we want to happen after we die?”
Chosen out of over 200 potential speakers for the inaugural TEDx Dupree Park, Lynn was scheduled to speak live in May of 2020 near Atlanta, Georgia. Due to the response to COVID-19, the talk was moved to an online format to still be able to share the speakers’ important messages.
Sherwood mentioned that her TEDx talk is now being recognized as TED talk as well. The difference between TED and TEDx events is that the former takes more of a global approach while the latter typically focuses on a local community that concentrates on local voices.
Lynn suggests in her TEDx Talk that in order to have “happier endings,” people need to consider purposefully self-centered actions they can take to intentionally design their dying – to get more of what they want at the end of life and to help relieve the burdens of decision-making and regrets for their family. Delivered with humor and a surprisingly touching death-prep checklist, Lynn works to remove the fear of having conversations about dying, making it easier to talk about really living before we “croak.”
“Regardless of the circumstance, it seems to me that asking ‘How can I best help you?’ might open the lines of communication best,” Sherwood said. “Your person may not know what they need right then and there, but they may appreciate knowing you will be at the ready when they do think of something they need two days from now.”
After seeing firsthand the benefits of planning and communication before death in her own daughter’s life, Lynn designed “My Croak File” to prompt communication and documentation of end-of-life desires.
“My Croak File” helps you communicate your answers to questions like these: How do you want your body to be cared for? Who will make decisions for you if you cannot? Where can your children find the key to your safe deposit box? Do you want your favorite tea set to go to a certain grandchild? It will be released as a digital product and as a tangible file in January of 2021.
“Born of my experience as an ER nurse, end-of-life caregiver for 22+ years, and now my experience with helping my daughter in the last stages of her living, people were so curious about how we designed her dying that has created ‘MY CROAK FILE’ to help others define the preferences they have for the end of their life,” Sherwood said. “This is the important work of my life, helping others to help themselves have happier endings.”
In addition to “My Croak File,” Lynn has also written a book titled “Lung Cancer 101.” Even though she is a former nurse, a private caregiver, and an expert in end-of-life care issues, her daughter Lauren’s lung cancer diagnosis at just 25 years old still seemed overwhelming. Lynn wrote “Lung Cancer 101” to help new families learn about and navigate this cancer, a disease that kills more people annually than breast, colon, and pancreatic cancers combined. She provides it for free in eBook format at lynnsherwood.com, and also offers a hard copy.
So what’s next on the horizon? Lynn is using her passion for helping people find happier endings (whenever their ending might come) to finish her second book, “Traveling Ashes,” in which she has curated a collection of funny, moving, and surprising stories about loved ones burying, scattering, and even hoarding their loved ones’ ashes.
Sherwood said, “Not talking about dying doesn’t make dying not happen. How will you design your dying to possibly achieve a happier ending?”