“Share your conversations with those closest to you.”
In life, most of us take the time to plan in an effort to have productive lives, successful careers and wonderful families. We have become the master planners when it comes to investing and finding creative ways to raise and save money as well as innovative ways to work and travel. We have taken planning and hosting celebrations of all kinds to another level – births, graduations, bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, sweet sixteen, first dates, engagements, milestone birthdays, bachelor and bachelorette parties, wedding showers, weddings, gender reveal parties, new homes….you get the picture, right? But why do so many of us fail to plan for one of our most important dates of our lives? The one event that planning for, as long as we are alive, can provide us (and our families) with the utmost sense of security, comfort and peace of mind….Welcome to THE Conversation.
What conversation am I talking about? Well, if you missed my previous blog, The Pain of Death, you may want to first start there. In many cultures, death and dying is a sacred rite of passage and is spoken about, meticulously planned for and celebrated in a myriad of ways. Yet in others, talking about death – much less planning for it – is a taboo. Then there are people and cultures that fall somewhere between both. Where do you fit in?
What is your relationship with death? Did your family talk about it when growing up? Have you experienced the death of a loved one yet? Have you had to suddenly plan for someone’s passing? Have you ever gone to a funeral, wake or memorial service and say to yourself, “So and so never would have wanted this.” Or “So and so would have wanted x,y, and z.” Or “What did they know about so and so?” Well, the sad reality is that “So and so” failed to make their wishes known.
Failing to make our wishes known when it comes to our health care, in the event something happens where we are left unable to make decisions for ourselves, can leave us without any quality of life whatsoever – perhaps even in a vegetative state. Failing to make our wishes known in the event of our passing can be catastrophic. Especially if there is money, property and THE most important investment property yet – children. What if a sole parent, or both parents, tragically die and a young child or young children are left behind? These are scenarios that happen every single day. Just think about all the people who left their home in the morning and never came back. Do you think they thought they were going to die that day? How about people who go to sleep at night and never wake up? I’m sure they had a laundry list of “to-dos” for the following day, and dying was not an item on THAT list.
Consumerism and materialism in this country is off the charts. Everyone wants more, more, more….more money, more beauty, more clothes, cars, houses, vacations, gadgets, indulgences, experiences, and people will spend money they have and don’t have to attain the latest “thing” du jour that promises blah, blah, blah. Everything has to be “in order” or at least “appear” to be in order to the outside world. That’s all fine and good if that’s your idea of a nice life and is what floats your boat. But how about investing some of that time, energy and resources in planning for a nice death? Or at best, having conversations about it with close friends and loved ones. Have you spoken to a loved one about your end of life wishes? Have you secured proper planning? Do you have an advanced health care directive? Have you designated a health care representative that will honor your wishes?
We have so many on-line planning tools and resources at our fingertips these days. In addition, many funeral / memorial homes even have personal planning guides available where one can document information such as vital statistics, personal records, estate information, insurance and beneficiary info, military history, family history, memorialization instructions, persons to contact or notify, the location of one’s will, and agencies, companies and organizations to contact. Why do we fail to plan? Any educator will give you the answer to that question – because failing to plan is planning to fail. Simply stated.
If we aren’t comfortable talking to our family, for whatever reason, then we can talk to our beloved friends. We can even enlist the help of some of our friends to aid us in getting the ball rolling. While I’ve had an advance directive and a will for as long as I can remember, and many of my friends and family are aware of my “overall” wishes, a couple of years ago I took the “planning” to an even more detailed, organized level. Not only did I update the legal documents, but I also recorded what I want done with my remains, the kind of event celebration and music I want and even took pictures of jewelry, furniture, and items that are near and dear to me and I want to bequeath to friends and loved ones. I put all these pictures in a photo album and, next to each one, I listed the person’s name and their phone number. The key is to remember to take pictures of any new acquisition….wink, wink, and make sure to give copies of your documents to the people who matter most.
As a matter of fact, one of my lovely friends and I just set a date for me to come over and help her do the same. Now remember, the idea is to not only be organized but to also have fun doing so. Set the mood, burn some incense, light candles, have great music playing in the background……..Make a fab event out of it, and plan to celebrate your successful accomplishments. I am sure we will celebrate will a little Pinot Noir and perhaps some delicious snacks or a nice meal. Remember, at best, snacks are always a must! And, at the end of this process, what we will be celebrating is the sense of comfort, ease and peace of mind we can have by having had THE Conversation and, ultimately, being prepared. What a beautiful, mindful, thoughtful and considerate gift to leave behind for our loved ones as a souvenir of our last rite of passage!
Isn’t this so much better than the added stress, anxiety, frenzy and heartbreak we leave behind if we fail to prepare? Loved ones left behind are already stressed and heartbroken. Why add uncertainty, confusion, drama, and perhaps even conflict, to an already painful moment in their lives?
So, darling, if you are someone who has been avoiding THE Conversation, may I ask you why? If you are in need of having this convo, my wish for you is that, after reading this, you may feel inspired to share your conversation with those closest to you….or at best make you a little more comfortable and at ease doing so. Just remember to make the process fun and entertaining….Oh, and remember the snacks xo
Inhale love & light…Exhale grace & gratitude, JTC