Sue Bergmann is Senior Director, Safety and Quality at the Washington State Hospital Association; she leads the Honoring Choices PNW initiative.

“I will not be in a better place. There is no better place to me than being here with you all.”

My mom taught me what advance care planning was way before I knew about it or understood it. My mom was always super organized and had a plan for everything. Advance care planning was something she was well positioned to do for herself.

My mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer, just a few months after her sister and best friend died from a long battle with the very same cancer diagnosis. My mom was very clear and deliberate about her wishes to not undergo treatment and live out the rest of her life spending time at home with those she loved.

My mom’s advance care plan did not end with her medical decisions. She carefully planned out every detail of her final days including her after death plan. Some of my fondest memories with my mom were helping her carry out those plans which included preparing a cookbook of all her favorite family recipes, writing letters to her grandchildren, writing her own memorial notice and picking out her biodegradable turtle urn (picture included). This planning brought me much peace in the last months of her life. When my mom passed, we had very few administrative tasks to complete, and we were able to solely focus our attention on remembering and honoring her. Knowing that everything was taken care of when she passed was her love letter to us.

My mom’s last written words were:

I know that my mom would be so happy to know that her advance care planning process inspired me to seek a career in helping others with advance care planning. Losing my mom was one of the most painful times of my life. But knowing that all her wishes were honored at the end of life has truly brought so much peace to my heart. Thank you, mom, for continuing to teach me about life even after your death.


Sue and and others with her mother’s biodegratable turtle urn.