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Last Flight Home

“It was like light from a lighthouse,” says David Timoner of the call he got from End of Life Choices California (EOLCCA) when he and his family were facing the toughest time of their lives.

“The wisdom we got from those final days we will carry with us forever.”

Ondi Timoner and Eli Timoner in 'Last Flight Home'

David’s 92-year-old father Eli was in the hospital. He had reached a point at which advanced COPD, CHF, and other health issues had become intractable and meant he would have to transfer to a care facility. But Eli knew he wanted to die at home surrounded by those he loved, and he asked about medical aid in dying. His family understood and supported his decision but didn’t know where to turn for help. Vaguely aware of a California law, they still had no idea what to do next.

“The day is a blur,” David says. “I think I googled something like ‘How to end your life legally . . .’ and EOLCCA popped up right on top. I called the number, left a message, and had a call back within the hour.” Lynne, the volunteer at the other end of the phone, was everything David needed at that moment: “Calm, empathetic, and with the answers to all of our questions. Lynne explained how the California law works and reviewed the eligibility requirements.” These, in brief, include the requirement that the patient must be diagnosed as terminally ill, with a six month or less prognosis by two doctors, must make the request himself, be able to self-ingest the medications, and be of sound mind. “Lynne also recommended that my father consider enrolling in hospice care,” David says. She was able to recommend two hospices in our area that she knew had doctors who participate in medical aid in dying. We chose one and brought Dad home.”
Ondi Timoner, an award winning documentary filmmaker, decided to record those days during the then 15-day waiting period mandated after Eli first requested aid in dying medication from the hospice doctor, until he could receive the prescription. She initially intended just to have a family remembrance. After all was over, however, she realized she had the makings of something important.

Ondi’s remarkable film, Last Flight Home, tells the full story. In the ensuing weeks, the Timoner family – Eli and his wife Lisa, their children David, Ondi and Rachel, their grandchildren and friends–would spend invaluable time at home together celebrating Eli’s unique life’s journey. The profound, intimate, loving farewell afforded Eli and his family by California’s medical aid in dying law, is the outcome we at EOLCCA wish for anyone who reaches out to us for similar help and information. That this Southern California family’s experience would be recorded by daughter Ondi and edited into a powerful documentary now being released to widespread acclaim, is a visual testament to the value of medical aid in dying.

At a screening in New York, daughter Rachel told a New York Times interviewer, “And then there is the idea that this film could change laws.” Many of us with EOLCCA worked hard to get the California law passed, and we continue to support expanding the law throughout the U.S. To have had a part in helping Eli Timoner and his family gain peace at his life’s end, and to know that they now join the fight for everyone to be able to make such a choice, is doubly gratifying for EOLCCA.

California is one of a small number of states fortunate to have a law which enables its residents to access this compassionate end-of-life option for the terminally ill. But, from call after call we receive every day, it’s clear that few terminally-ill Californians are even aware of the law, or know enough about it to even begin the process of requesting medical aid in dying from their physician.

Last Flight Home is a film we hope will receive all the top accolades in the film industry for its many-layered and beautiful story. The story behind the film has been well documented in the New York Times. It is one we urge our readers to see as soon as possible and then recommend to friends and family everywhere.

‘Last Flight Home’ is a film we urge our readers to see and recommend to friends and family everywhere.

EOLCCA Lynne with 'Last Flight Home' Director Ondi Timoner and family

From Left to Right: Lynne Calkins with Ondi Timoner, Rachel Timoner, and Lisa Timoner at a recent screening

Asked for advice she might now pass on, Ondi says simply, “Be with your loved ones now. Don’t wait for them to be dying. But there is an incredible quality of life when a person is transitioning. The wisdom we got from those final days we will carry with us forever.”
Perhaps the most profound lesson Eli’s family learned was the simplest. It has to do with summing up life itself – as we humans do so often by looking at accomplishments and honors and all those treasures we accumulate. But no, says Ondi Timoner as she reflects on her family’s journey and the creating of Last Flight Home.

“Look at it as a way to measure our lives,” she says. “Measure our lives with love.”

We hope Last Flight Home will reach the countless families and individuals in situations similar to that of Eli and his family, so that others may learn about the California law in time to make a difference in their own end of life if facing a terminal illness. Our EOLCCA volunteers are always ready to help. Call us at 760-636-8009 or visit our website.

Click here for current showings in LA, San Francisco, Berkeley, Mill Valley, and a few additional cities before its Paramount Plus release in late November 2022.

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A lifelong newspaper and magazine writer, EOLCCA Board Member Fran Moreland Johns has published fiction, nonfiction, and several books. Her focus on end-of-life issues includes many volunteer years, numerous articles and one book, Dying Unafraid. She holds a BA in Art from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, and currently blogs at Medium.com and franjohns.net. Her short story collection, Marshallville Stories, was released in April 2022.

A Volunteer’s Story

Our client, and my friend, “Anne” died Friday, December 10. She was the mother of my best friend and the most fun-loving, bubbly, vivacious, down-to-earth woman I have ever known. I called her my “other mother.” At a cool 95, she was having a great time. She was my hero.

 

But then came the cancer and her life changed. Now everyday was a painful struggle. Her body just didn’t seem to work right anymore. After she returned home from a horrific trip to the ER, followed by a hospital stay and rehab, she said, “I’m not going back there,” and asked me about that “aid in dying thing”.

 

Even with hospice support, her daily life soon became a grind of pain and difficulty and loss of things that brought her pleasure. After going through the process with her medical providers to request aid in dying medication, and once she received the prescription, she seemed to relax and rally and had a pretty good week. But ultimately, the pain and misery became unbearable and, on that Friday, with her daughter, her boyfriend and me present, she drank her final medication and peacefully drifted off to a deep sleep with hugs all around. I’m grateful to EOLCCA for providing the training that made it possible for me to support my dying friend’s wishes.

 

— C.A.

Dear Friends and Supporters,

As the new year approaches, we thank you for your generous support, your insights, and your commitment to our work throughout 2021. You have helped EOLCCA grow in a sustainable and incremental way.  We are truly grateful to be able to meet the needs of Californians, such as Anne whose story is shared above, seeking answers or support with their end-of-life options.  We look forward to continuing this vital work in 2022.

The New Law

On January 1, 2022 — just a few days away — California Senate Bill 380 which became law this fall, will go into effect!

We welcome all of SB 380’s excellent improvements!  Through this blog and our website, we will keep you apprised as the law becomes operational and we learn more about how providers, healthcare systems and hospices address required changes in the new year.

Here’s a snapshot:

  • The new law reduces the waiting period between the two required oral requests from 15 days to 48 hours.
  • Healthcare systems and hospices will now have to post their aid-in-dying policies on their websites.
  • The Final Attestation form will be completely eliminated.
  • If a terminally ill patient requests medical aid in dying and his or her physician does not wish to participate, the physician will be required to tell the patient he or she will not participate. AND the physician must document the request in the patient’s medical record and transfer the patient’s medical records upon request.
  • The new law clarifies that medical aid in dying medication can be taken within a healthcare facility.

Grateful

We continue to be honored to help people in circumstances, such as Anne’s, to navigate the process through the end of their lives and hopefully find their way to a peaceful death.

We are grateful to be able to provide these services at no charge to our clients.  It is because of the big-heartedness of you, our supporters that we can continue to do so. Thank you. If you wish to make a year-end gift to further our work, please click here for our donation page and accept our sincere appreciation.

Happy New Year to you all!  And best wishes for a more peaceful, healthy 2022.

Sincerely,
The EOLCCA Team

We are growing up

End of Life Choices California is growing up.

We launched  in February 2019 as  just the spark of an idea.  An idea full of purpose, caring, enthusiasm and commitment.  The four of us came together to create a new nonprofit dedicated to providing accurate information and personal support to the seriously and terminally ill people of California.  We decided to name our organization End of Life Choices California to represent choice at the end-of-life. And as you will see, we have already come a long way.

On our way!

Since early February, we filed the appropriate papers with the State of California to form a non-profit organization. We built a resource-rich website that is very user friendly and welcoming. We are writing a regular blog, and getting new subscribers every day (subscribe here.) We have a Facebook page with more than 100 “likes” (like us!). We are preparing funding proposals and developing marketing and fundraising plans. We have formed two excellent teams to help guide us: our esteemed Board of Directors and a carefully chosen Advisory Committee. Our founding directors formed an Organizational Management Team which currently manages our day-to-day operations and volunteers. Our strategic plan includes continuing to develop a statewide service model and hiring an Executive Director, Program Manager, and Development Officer over the next 12-24 months.

First Training

We held our first Client Advocate Volunteer training in Los Angeles in early June and are holding our second Client Advocate Volunteer training in San Francisco on August 18, with another southern California training planned later in the Fall. See all our events here. Be sure to let us know if you’re interested in becoming a volunteer.

We have been doing all of this on faith, commitment and a deep sense of knowing we are doing the right thing: meeting the needs of Californians facing end of life decisions with factual, legal, and compassionate information and personal support.  We have fielded dozens of phone calls and provided support to a number of dying clients. We have already made at least a dozen presentations to community groups, senior centers, and hospices. We want to do more! Please feel free to share your ideas with us and also share about us to your friends and colleagues who might be interested in any service we can provide, or who may be looking for a speaker. Forwarding this blog post is a great way to do that.

Finally 501(c)(3)

Lastly, and importantly, we are happy to report that we recently received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service congratulating EOLCCA on being recognized as a tax-exempt non-profit public charity organized under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3), back-dated to the day we incorporated in February, 2019. This means that if you want to help us keep growing by giving us a gift, those gifts may now qualify as a charitable deduction on your tax return.

We are thrilled that our early work has laid the groundwork for this growing organization that will make a difference in peoples’ lives.  We are truly growing up.  And, yes there’s more! We are honored to have received our first major donor gift of $10,000!

It is so gratifying to know that others believe in our mission as much as we do.

So no more training wheels for us.  We are moving forward purposefully, step-by-step, knowing we are doing something truly worthwhile for California, and trusting you will help. Together, we can advance public understanding and compassion for those making thoughtful decisions about managing terminal illness and their dying, and help bring peace and comfort to the loved ones who care about them. There is a social movement and change happening that is improving end of life choices and decision-making.  We are proud to be part of it.

If you would like to help us continue to grow our services and client support program, please visit EOLCCA  to make a donation online, or send a check to EOLCCA, 530 S Sierra Ave #30, Solana Beach, CA 92075.

With gratitude for your continuing support,

Judy, Karen, Claudia & Lynne
Founding Directors