This is a question about an unpleasant topic that we will all have to face at some point in time: death. If you are uneasy or sensitive about the subject, please stop reading now.
With that said...
My parents are in their 80s with degrading health. Visits to the hospital for various medical reasons have been increasing. I absolutely hate to admit this, but at some point, they might not come home after one of those visits to the hospital. I want to have a conversation with them about this, to know about their last wishes. I don't even know if they prefer to be buried or cremated. I don't know what they want to happen with their possessions. I don't know who they want notified about their death.
I don't know how to approach this and I'm really scared about the consequences such a conversation might have. I don't want them to get all depressed about it and start thinking about death all the time, thus contributing to their health issues.
Some other information to put things into context:
me and my parents have always had a good relation, but it's not what I might call "warm". We never discussed feelings, sexuality, religion, about life in general... or death. I'm not sure exactly how that happened, but that's how it is. This will be an emotional talk, of a kind that we almost never had before. I also have two siblings. Our relation is the same. We all have our families and moved out of the house long ago. But we don't really communicate to each other our problems. We keep to ourselves and we deal with things on our own. I'm sure they also thought about this but they are probably just as reticent as me to open up a conversation.
while I was growing up my parents didn't go to church and they didn't strike me as the religious bunch. Some time after them retiring, they started attending church though. I'm not sure if this is because they are doing something they could not do while they were employed and taking care of the house, if they do it to see friends, or if they feel the end approaching and somehow they try to find some comfort or peace in that.
I'm an atheist interested in topics like stoicism, existentialism and various practices from Buddhism. Because of that, I have no issue dealing with my own mortality, and I'm not scared of dying. It's part of the human condition. It's something we cannot avoid. It makes sense to me to somehow prepare for it so that my own family's knows what my last wishes are and all my affairs are in order so my death isn't a burden to them. For example, I want to be cremated and my ashes disposed of. I have all documents set in order, my wife knows where to find everything after I'm dead. I have accounts with passwords written on paper, where she can find all the money I manage (my bank accounts, investments, paypal, cryptocurrencies, etc.). I have a list with things required by law to be done after my death so my surviving wife knows what needs to do, so she doesn't need to figure things out while also dealing with my death, etc. She's kind of freaked out about this (death is kind of a taboo subject for her) and doesn't want to talk about the subject, but at least accepted that there is a folder in the safe with instructions to follow after I'm dead.
Obviously I don't want to have such an extended conversation with my parents and make them plan for their death, but It would help to know what their last wishes are and in what way they would want their affairs settled before leaving this planet.
How do I even open up a discussion like this with my parents. Or with anyone for that matter, that considers death as something taboo to talk about?
P.S. I'm not going to tag this with some specific country or culture. I'm interested in anyone's opinion, no matter their cultural background.