I want to talk about Death. Specifically our fear of Death and how we spend most of our lives pretending we won’t die and then freaking out when we realize we will. I get it, death is scary, with a capital D, something whispered in quiet corners or left best discussed in hospital rooms.
We don’t discuss it, not even with our parents, siblings, partners, trusted friends. Not even with our doctors or faith leaders. Yet death is all around us. We are constantly reminded of our mortality ever day. It’s always in the news, in social media, we tweet about it. But we never truly discuss it or plan for it. We leave it up to someone else to deal with.
I want to change this. I want to have open conversations about the dying process. Otherwise our deaths will be left solely to others to deal with like our family, friends and our communities who are so unprepared. Planning for your death is more than just a to do list, it is an opportunity to share your values, your beliefs, the decisions you would make for yourself, but may not be able to.
Like many, I never gave my own mortality much thought. I was too busy just trying to live, to make it to the next step in my life, build my career. I have a family, a job, stuff to do each day. I just thought funeral homes handled it all. But that changed when my grandmother, the only mother I have ever known, decided she needed to move in to a retirement home. And that’s often the last place we will live out the rest of our days.
My Grandmother, who had outlived two children and two husbands was all too familiar with death, the dying process, and what lies in between. One day she sat me down and said, “I want you to be my power of attorney, I want you to handle it all.” Umm, handle what I thought to myself.
Over the next few months, my Grandmother and I worked on her end of life plan. She had a will created, an advanced directive completed all stored in a safe place. She wrote her own obituary, documented her life story, created a playlist for her memorial service, and told me which psalms to be read.
She provided me a way to navigate the days, weeks, and months of grief I would find myself wading through after her death. I asked her once how she knew to do this, what prompted her to look so fearlessly towards the end of her days. Was it her faith? Did someone at the retirement home instruct her to do so?
“No,” she said. “I’m doing this because I love you. I don’t have riches to leave you, no fancy jewelry or priceless antiques. Just my love.” This is my last gift to you, my ever after gift,” she said. Her legacy of love to me.
Death Doula, Hospice Volunteer
End of Life Educator
I show people how pre-planning for death is an act of love and an ever lasting legacy