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The Conversation

Bill Ritter's daily take on the news.
October 9, 2012 2:05:38 PM PDT
When my father died more than 14 years ago, I began pitching a story about how we deal with the end of life. The issues involved. How we react. How we want to die, and where.

No one wanted to touch it. I was told Americans didn't want to hear about death, it would be too "down" of a story, and talking about how I got involved in the subject, bathing my father after he died, drying him, dressing him, and putting him in his coffin, wasn't the stuff people want to see or hear or discuss on national television.

I pitched the story several times, including earlier this year, when ABC News asked staffers to come up with new and different story ideas.

I found a kindred spirit, who embraced the idea of shattering one of the last remaining taboos. And the project was given the green light.

That kindred pal was Diane Sawyer, and, thanks to her, the project we started in spring will have produce its first story tonight on World News with Diane Sawyer.

We're calling it "The Conversation," and tonight Diane takes us into the living room of a family that is having it. It is honest and intimate and inspiring.

There are some who will not want to have this conversation. And that's okay. But there are tens of millions who do want to have it. And that's even better.

The CDC studied this issue and found that 70 percent of us say we want to die at home, but that in the end 70 percent of us die in an institution, like a nursing home or hospital. The numbers are flip flopped.

By having The Conversation, we can change all that. We're partnering with The Conversation Project, started by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Ellen Goodman, which has come up with an online roadmap about how to start The Conversation. A simple how-to for families wanting to begin this process. Here are a couple:
1. Ask yourself - what would matter most to you at the end of your life.
2. Who would you talk to about all this - make a list of people.
3. And one way to approach it: tell them: "I need to think about the future. Will you help me?"

You can see the how-to list, and the project on the ABC News website, or CLICK HERE and we can show it to you on 7Online.

I'm beyond excited and proud as we launch this project. I hope you'll participate.

All that is prelude to our 11 p.m. newscast, where we'll have the latest on that horrific car crash that killed four teenagers on Long Island. Wakes for the kids start tonight. Something of a dispute going on about just how dangerous that strip of the Southern State Parkway is some officials call it a kind of "dead man's curve" with a history of bad accidents. Others say it's no worse than other places on the Parkway. In any case, the sole survivor, the driver who shouldn't have been behind the wheel because he had only a learner's permit, is expected to leave the hospital.

We'll have the latest, at 11. We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Meteorologist Lee Goldberg with the night's sports, and Laura Behnke with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER

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