What You Should Say And Do At An Ending Party
OPINION 10/06/2039 1:12 AM ET
What You Should Say And Do At An Ending Party
by Eloise Holland

CC0 1.0 Untitled by RyanMcGuire | Writer image: CC0 1.0 Untitled by MihaiParaschiv | Images were cropped. Images used for illustration purposes only. Image changes released under the same license as the original.
You can help make an ending party a special, upbeat occasion - for everyone.
I went to an ending party two nights ago.

It was for my former boss (I'll call her Keylyn). She and I had had a tumultuous beginning - she initially rubbed me the wrong way, and I her - but eventually we learned to work together, and were even quite amicable.

We were never bests or anything which is why the invitation to her ending party caught me a little unawares. But it didn't seem the sort of thing I should pass up so I attended.

From the invitation I learned she had been diagnosed with cancer and that she hadn't wanted to burden her family with the expense, time, and heartache it would cause if she were to fight what doctors predicted would be a losing battle. The invitation also mentioned that she would rather avoid the inevitable pain as the cancer ravaged her body.

Her family wasn't at the party which gave me cause to wonder, but I thought perhaps the grief is simply too much to bear.

Keylyn's doctor was waiting in her bedroom until she was ready to end, and Keylyn had organized for her closest friend to act as her BQ when she ended.

A BQ is an abbreviation for 'bequeathed' and it's his or her job to be present at the ending and inform the rest of the party that the ender has been pronounced deceased by the doctor.

As in, 'it's bequeathed to me to inform you that...' (this was the wording used by Keylyn's BQ.)

Keylyn ended at 12:01 which is exactly what she wanted. And I was privileged to help her transition during her last evening, and hopefully to make it a special day for her.

Data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that last year 61,000 people assisted-ended. According to LovEnding, the nation's most prominent assisted-ending advocacy organization, most people don't have ending parties.

They believe their friends and relatives won't show up, and so they choose to end alone.

My first ending party was a unique experience. I went in with what I thought was a healthy attitude and tried to impact the gathering in a positive, beneficial manner.

I learned much and so I present to you a list of do's and don't's, if you ever are invited to one.

DO accept the invitation.

Can you imagine anything sadder than a person wanting to spend their last day with family and friends and being rejected?

DON'T say things like, "Why are you doing this?" or try to talk the ender out of their decision.

The ender has thought long and hard about their choice (and it IS their choice). Federal laws mandate a one week waiting period between the first request for an ending-kit

Don't make it more stressful by making them live through that again.

DON'T turn down a request to be a BQ.

A BQ is a high honor - it means you will witness the ender's final moments, and communicate their ending to their friends and family.

Saying no is incredibly hurtful.

DO help with planning.

A doctor is always a wise choice for an ending party, in case anything goes wrong. Ask the ender if they've organized one. Have they arranged for a BQ?

DON'T ask if you're in the ender's will.

That's just bad manners. Don't even joke about it. (Someone did actually make that joke to Keylyn and the atmosphere went bad. Don't do it.)

DO ask if you can help decorate the Farewell Chamber.

If you're close enough to the ender, you might want to ask if you can help him or her decorate the room they will end in. You could ask if they would like the room dressed up in their favorite color or if they would prefer flowers or posters or something like that. A man last year ended surrounded by the colors of his favorite football team. He was in front of his TV, watching a replay of his team winning the Superbowl.

You could also ask if the ender would like some music ready to play for when they end. Sometimes the right song helps the ender say goodbye more peacefully.

DON'T neglect to ask if you can bring something.

Sometimes the ender will fully cater their ending party, but sometimes it will be a potluck affair. If so, bring something nice - a lovely cake, maybe a bottle of the ender's favorite wine. Be thoughtful.

DO let the ender dictate the party.

If the ender wants to dance, then dance. If they want to watch classic westerns, then offer to make popcorn. If they want to read from a religious document of some description, help with that.

DON'T be insensitive.

Be careful with your language. Don't say things like, "See you later." Maybe you just said it without thinking, but that's the point. This is the person's life ending. Sound like you take it as seriously as they do.

(Yes, Keylyn had to endure someone saying, "See you later.")

DO give a thoughful gift.

A cashmere sweater doesn't make any sense, unless the ender really wanted it for some reason. Otherwise, it looks like you are indifferent to the magnitude of what's happening.

A thoughtful gift could be a donation to the enders' favorite charity, or if you wanted to be really thoughtful - and if it fits with the atmosphere - you could arrange to recite a poem you wrote, or sing a song, or even do a skit. Ending parties don't need to be a wake.

The invitation I received suggested anecdotes would be welcome, so I relayed the best memory I had of Keylyn. Anecdotes are a nice way to make the person feel special.

DON'T be clingy when the time comes.

When the ender chooses, he or she will usually have the BQ announce that it's time for the ending to take place, and that the ender thanks everyone for attending (the ender will stand behind the BQ when this occurs). Then they will retire to the Farewell Chamber with the BQ for the ending.

Don't weep, don't call out and ask them to change their mind, and definitely DON'T go in for a last-minute hug. This is a MAJOR faux-pas. When the BQ announces that it's time for the ender to end, the ender has begun separating themselves from the world. You cannot interrupt this process, as the BQ's announcement carries enormous symbolism.

DO remain silent until the BQ re-emerges.

Usually the ending only takes a few minutes, so don't say anything until the BQ informs the gathering that the ender has ended.

This also is symbolic of the peace the ender is choosing to experience in their ending.

DON'T hold back your tears after the BQ re-emerges.

Now's the time to weep, and to help friends and family through the difficult times ahead. You can begin by being open, and supportive.

Some people can't handle the idea that their friend or family member just ended, so help them deal with that as best they can. In Keylyn's case, one of her friends wanted to rush into the Farewell Chamber to see the body. She had to be restrained in her grief.

DO leave when the BQ suggests it's time for the funeral home to collect the ender's body.


DON'T shy away from participating in the Circle of Friends.

Some funeral companies provide cremation services on-site (a portable cremation booth can be arranged beforehand), and can provide an urn very quickly.

If this happens, the BQ will organize everyone into a circle. When the urn is passed to you, bow your head, close your eyes and say, "Thank you", before passing the urn on.

This helps everyone attain closure.

Above all, DO realize that the day doesn't belong to you: it belongs to the ender. DO help in any way appropriate to make the party the loving, fulfilling, and joyous experience it can be.

Celebrate the ender's life by honoring their choice and participating fully in their final wish!
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