Ageless Mind Project Newsletter
Design Your Ageless Mind
The Five Wishes

The Five Wishes

How to live your best dying

In today’s episode we tackle a sensitive subject that not many talk about - death. Fortunately, our guest is not only a “Death Doula,” but someone who genuinely embraces the process. She has made it her mission in life to demystify and help others prepare for death so that we can approach it with understanding and compassion. In this episode, entitled “The Five Wishes,” we talk with Carole about a series of five wishes she uses to help prepare both the person who is dying and their family and friends for the end of their loved ones life.

Helpful Links

Lynne: Welcome to the Ageless Mind Project (AMP) podcast, "Voices From the Field," where we talk with a wide variety of proactive agers and experts to explore how each of us can design our own version of an ageless mind - one that's alert, curious, creative, and ever-growing. These podcasts are meant to give you tools to increase your wellbeing and quality of life at any age.

Today, Carole Silvoy, who recently contributed an article to this Substack about her personal path to becoming a Death Doula, is going to share information about ways we can make end-of-life planning less stressful and more meaningful for us and our loved ones.

Lynne: So Carole, you're trained as a Death Doula, but you also do other things for people and their families at the end of life. I love the name you've given your work: Good Heart Companion. So please, tell us a little bit more about what you can provide as a Good Heart Companion.

Carole: As a Doula, you hear end-of-life Doula or Death Doula, but doesn’t mean just getting to the point of hospice. We also get to help people plan ahead, to decide what they'd like to do. I also hold space with people for all kinds of loss.

One of the things that is close to my heart is when a pet dies. I like to help people sit with that and how that feels, to help them experience the grief that goes along with it to get to the other side of it, and all of the lovely memories.

We can also do Legacy work. You can do that at any point in your life. It just means looking at your life footprint and how you will want to be remembered. I can also do that with pets. I love to sit down with people and have them tell me the story of their pet and their little quirks, and then I write it down for them because they're little things that you’ll forget. It's the little day-to-day things. I also do end-of-life planning and long-distance care, and I think the end-of-life planning is one of the most broad things that I offer.

Lynne: Is that connected to this thing called, “The Five Wishes?”

Carole: Yes.

Lynne: Ah okay, I do want to say a little more about pet loss before we go on to the Five Wishes. It's very unusual to have somebody sit with people about pets, and I think that's quite a remarkable service to offer.

Carole: There are some Doulas that specialize in pet loss, and it might be something that's near and dear to their hearts and they're able to really assist others going through the loss of a pet.

Lynne: Yeah, this is a wonderful kind of service to offer, I think. As I said, I have a friend, a psychologist, who wrote a book on pet loss because of his own awareness of how important his dogs were to him. He talked about other people's responses to the loss of a pet and how you could get through the loss. But to have somebody actually sit with you and go through it with you is, I think, an even deeper experience. Tell us more about The Five Wishes.

Carole: I think the best place to start with end-of-life planning is when you're healthy and you're looking at what is ahead, to be able to say what you would want things to be like if you're unable to make decisions for yourself.

At, you can find a structure to assist you in making these decisions. You will answer questions and talk about things that are going to be most important to you. I think it is a gift that we give to the people that we love so that they aren't going to have to guess what it is we would have wanted. They are also given the gift of not having to wonder if they are doing the right thing.

So, the Five Wishes are for:

  • One, the person I want to make care decisions for me when I can't;

  • Two, the kind of medical treatment I want or don't want;

  • Three, how comfortable I want to be (the one I find most interesting);

  • Four, how I want people to treat me; and

  • Five, what I want my loved ones to know.

Lynne: I agree with you that the last three are really interesting, because thinking for myself, even answering the question for myself to convey to other people requires me to really put into words some things that I often don't think about.

Carole: Often, you don't even realize what you would prefer until you ask yourself the questions.

Lynne: Exactly, exactly.

Carole: That's what's unique about The Five Wishes. It's an advanced directive, a living will, and once witnessed by two people and signed it's a legal document in almost all states. This is the first one that takes care of your personal, emotional, and spiritual feelings along with the medical. Underneath each of the wishes it say (in parentheses), “please cross out anything that you don't agree with.” By crossing it out you let the people who are going to be looking at this document know what you did or didn’t want.

Lynne: So they actually give you some ideas there, and then you can decide. That's even better!

Carole: They're bulleted and you can cross off what you like. You could underline or circle something, you can even write new stuff in as you're responding. Number three, for example, concerns your wish for how comfortable you want to be. Maybe you don't want to be in pain, maybe you don't want to have your feet rubbed, or maybe you would love to have foot rubs. Some people would like to have a warm bath, other people just, you know, just let me be still, I don't want to be uncomfortable, I just want to be all sort of bundled up.

Once you get past the comfort level, how do you want people to treat you? That's number four. And some people will want their hands to be held, and to have conversation going on with them, around them. You can even look at what kind of music you would want. Would you want music? What smells do you want? I actually have a Spotify playlist for myself and have asked for that to be shared when I'm gone if people are gathering to remember me. It says, “Listen to this stuff, this is really who I am!”

I help people pick those things when they wouldn't necessarily know to do that for themselves. I can sit down with them and we'll create a playlist. Being able to have the sense that you are creating a picture of how you'd like things to be. If it doesn't work out that way, that's fine too, but if you're wanting to know how I would like things to be, this is what I would like. There are some people I would really love to have be there. Working as a Doula, sometimes it's my job to help them articulate, that there are some people or a person they do not want to have around. That's a big deal.

Lynne: I never thought about that.

Carole: And the the wrap-up of this document is my wish for what I want my loved ones to know. How I feel about death, that I'd like people to make peace, that I forgive and I ask forgiveness for anything that went between us in general. And if anyone asks how I want to be remembered, please say the following about me, and a place to think about that and write it down. And I find having The Five Wishes to start with, at the very least opens the conversation.

I worked with a couple who knew that he was dying. But we did not know how quickly it would happen. I gave them The Five Wishes right when I met them, and they talked about it that night. They weren’t able to fill it all out, but they had the conversation they had never been able to have before. And that was really valuable in those last days.

Lynne: I can imagine.

Carole: He created the good death that he wanted.

Lynne: Carole, we definitely want to have you back to talk much more about these things, but just thinking about the time now, I do want to ask you one final question. You know, you do so much for others, and I'm also interested in what you do to keep yourself alert and optimistic while you're focusing so much on life's end.

Carole: A lot of people think it's a very depressing job, but I think the things that I do the most physically, I do a lot of breath work, I use breathing to center me, to calm me, to energize me, and it's something you always can do wherever you are. And the other piece of it is, I know what MY stuff is, and I'm able to set that aside, and just let all of my stuff be somewhere else while I'm there for that person, and I can just be there with them and my things don't enter into it, so I don't have that layered on top of my, you know, feelings or grief or anything like that. And I also talk with other Doulas. We support each other.

Yeah, one thing I have not mentioned to you before is that because dementia is a terminal illness, and sometimes people don't want to know, but when you do get a diagnosis, that's a time when the person still has agency, still can think and talk about these things, so working on something like The Five Wishes when you have a diagnosis of dementia, allows you to actually be part of how things are going to play out.

Lynne: I wish that I had known that - that we had had this when my mother developed dementia, because it would have made a big difference for us, after the fact especially, after she died.

There’s so much to think about here, you know, and planning for the end of life is a topic people often avoid, but you've given us-- me and us-- a different way of looking at it, so I want to thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and your experience in such a kind, thoughtful way.

And to our other subscribers, you must have questions you'd like to ask Carole. Put them in the comments below, or send them to us at, so we can keep this conversation going. And be sure to like and subscribe to this podcast, and to sign up for our email list to get a reminder when a new podcast is posted here. Thanks again Carole.

Carole: My pleasure.

Copyright 2024 by Ageless Mind Project.

We highly appreciate donations, which can be made by clicking the PayPal Donate button below:

Most of all, we are eager to hear from you in the comments section below. What are you interested in exploring with us? What concerns you? What kind of ageless mind do you want to design?

Ageless Mind Project Newsletter
Design Your Ageless Mind
Designing an Ageless Mind brings experts from a variety of fields and multiple generations together to talk about topics of mutual interest. Listeners can comment, ask questions, and share their life experiences.
Listen on
Substack App
RSS Feed
Appears in episode
Ageless Mind Project
Carole Silvoy