Tag: funeral

Looking Ahead to Retirement

Retirement is for the old. Or the rich. And let’s face it, I’m neither.

But when your investment advisor calls you to discuss your retirement portfolio, you start thinking about it.
If the lady selling pre-paid funeral packages calls you a few months later, it’s probably a second hint. You know, that maybe you SHOULD be thinking about retirement.

There’s plenty of press that says Americans better start planning to work until they’re 70. And why not if you’re healthy? And if you’re going to live until you’re in your 80s, that still gives you plenty of time to enjoy life.

If there is life after work.


I’m not so sure. My mother retired and a few years later she was struck by lymphoma. Five years later, we were weeping at her funeral.

There’s not a single guarantee that any of us will make it beyond today.

So why think about retirement?

Well, if you want to retire, you’ll need to make a plan.

What’s the Right Age?

According to the TIME MAGAZINE article I’m referencing, most Americans are planning to retire too early. Half of them retire between the ages of 61 and 65.

What’s the problem with this?

Well, you can’t claim social security benefits until the age of 66 (67 for those of us born after 1960). And you can forget about Medicare until after you’re 65.

My husband would like to retire sometime between 63 and 66. As an author, I don’t plan to ever retire, but I do hope to stop substitute teaching when my current license expires.

We’ll see if that dream comes true.

What’s After That?

My thought about retirement is: Why?
What are you going to do if you don’t go to work?
In my experience, people retire and their health fades. This is true about nearly half the people I know. They stop getting up in the morning and they don’t make any plans for their days.

This wasn’t the case for my mom. She enrolled in Master Gardeners and learned a new skill in an arena she loves. She worked with her husband making items to sell at bazaars. They traveled.

And then disease struck.

Poor health is one of the things that robs retirement of any of the expected joy of living.

It’s also the reason some people plan to retire on this side of sixty.

A teacher I worked with for ten years retired before her 60th birthday because she had the means. She’s still substituting at the school, but most of the time she’s involved in home improvement projects, riding one of her horses and spending time with family and friends.

She decided when a friend of hers received a horrible medical diagnosis, that she wasn’t going to wait. She wanted to live, not just work all her life for someone else.

I admire her. Her mother is 90. Will my friend’s financial resources support her if she lives that long?

Our Early Plan

This month, we borrowed an RV and traveled over to LaPine, Oregon. It’s the place my husband has scoped out that seems to have inexpensive land.
His plan: Get an RV and travel a week here and there but keep a home base. When we’re done traveling, sell the RV and settle into a 2,000 square foot house (paid for) that’s close enough so the kids and grandkids can (and will) visit, but is also located in an area with enough outdoor activities to keep us active.
My plan: Be debt-free. Yeah, that’s about it.
I’m all for traveling in an RV. I think I would enjoy it as long as it became “my home.” Because I’m a home body. I love my bed more than any other place to sleep in the world.

But my idea if travel in an RV involves being on the road for a month or more at a time. I want to explore every state in the US and drive coast-to-coast through Canada. You’re not going to do that in a week and see anything.

I’ve always envisioned myself being part of my grandkids’ lives, though. When my Gram moved away, I was heartbroken. My best childhood memories involve visits to her house.

Can I be a grandmother if I live hundreds of miles from my grandkids?

What do you think is the prime age for retirement? What do you hope to do when you’re retired?

Funeral, Memorial Service or Something Else

quote-about-grief1“I don’t want a funeral. Don’t cry when I’m dead. Have a party and laugh about my stupidity, hilarity and ingenuity.”

My husband looks at me like I’m crazy. As much as I cry when a loved one passes, he thinks it’s the epitome of hypocrisy that I expect people to laugh after my own departure from life on earth.

I’m all over Ecclesiastes chapter three and think that the time to weep and mourn for me can happen in a dark room somewhere. When they hold my service, I want laughter (and for me laughter often involves tears).

In that case, I don’t think a funeral or memorial service will be appropriate for me. After planning a memorial service for my mother, I had no expectation to laugh during the service. Laughter at a funeral would be even more blasphemous, right?

These days, people hold a service after a loved one passes and call it “a celebration of life.” That sounds more my style. Of course, in the throes of recent loss, I find myself choked up and ruining my makeup at these events, too.

Some people have the knack for enticing people at the reception after such a service to share an anecdote. Others join in. Soon, people are smiling and laughing. Reminiscing is the healthiest way to mourn a loss.

Was I ready for this when my mother was in her hospital bed dying? Not really. The evening I witnessed her last breath, could I think of a funny story to share? Nope. As I sat across from the funeral director, did I believe cracking a joke would lighten the mood? Negatory.

These events aren’t the appropriate time and place for cutting up. Sometimes people share anecdotes at the end of an organized service that bring a smile or a titter of laughter. That’s okay. Those who feel it’s appropriate to join in will do so; others will cry and grumble.

I prefer a small gathering of family and close friends in a neutral location – after the reception perhaps. Get the stories flowing. “Remember when Mom piled ten kids into that VW bug?” “Picking up rocks from the garden plot was torture, but Mom sure grew the best green beans and peas afterwards.”

This is the type of casual get-together that I’m talking about when I tell my husband I don’t want people blubbering over my death (after all, I’ll be rejoicing in the presence of my Lord and Savior; what’s sad about that?). Of course people will cry (some will be tears of joy) when I’m dead. My place in their lives will be empty.

Image courtesy of babble.com
Image courtesy of babble.com

We don’t cry for the dead person. We weep for ourselves. Our loss is their gain. Grief isn’t an indulgence; it’s a necessary step in resuming our life – now changed in the absence of a vital player.

How would you like to be remembered when you’re gone? Have you ever been in a funeral-type service where the air crackled with joy rather than grief? If so, why was that the case?

A Mother’s Life

When you’re writing your mother’s obituary, it occurs to you that sometimes words fail. A life is more than education, residence, employment, awards and surviving family. All the column inches in the newspaper can never hope to capture the full story.

My mother’s life conceived mine. If she had listened to the obstetrician who told her pregnancy and her body didn’t mesh, I would not be here to write these words.

My mother worked hard to make sure I had what I needed. She taught me the value of hard work as a means of reaching beyond the necessities of life into the pleasures. Did I appreciate having to scrub the toilet twice a week? (Make that six times if the first attempt didn’t meet her specification for cleanliness.)

Episodes of raw fried chicken and undercooked potatoes aside, I can prepare tasty and healthy meals because my mother taught me how to use a stove. I started drying the dishes at the age of five (lucky older sister got to wash). I recall stirring jam until I thought my arm would fall off, being hypnotized by the valve on the top of the pressure cooker and sending raw venison through the meat grinder.

My mother taught by example as much as by direct instruction. She loved to read. She sat in the chair with my sister on one side and me on the other, reading aloud to us. When we were old enough, we took turns reading the stories to her. She sang along with The Carpenters as their 8-track played on the stereo. She took us to church on Sunday and helped us learn to recite the books of the Bible.

As much as I grumbled about keeping my room clean, I knew what a clean room should look like. Our house was spotless. No need for a “five second rule” in our kitchen. Go ahead and eat directly off the floor; it’s as clean and sanitary as the counters. No joke.

My mother worked at the bank when we were younger. When we were in high school, she returned to college to pursue a nursing degree. She taught me that a person is never too old to pursue a dream.

I resented her determination to get high marks in college. She spent too much time studying, I thought. Of course, when I returned to college as a 40-year-old, I couldn’t settle for less than an “A” either. She had passed her perfectionism on to me – by example as much as admonition.

I wanted to make my own choices. I deliberately chose things she disapproved for my life, claiming it demonstrated my independence from her. Most of my regrets were decisions I made simply because I knew Mom wouldn’t want me to do it. Can anyone say “stupid”?

I didn’t appreciate her advice until I had children of my own. I didn’t understand her grief at my rebellion until my own children stood toe-to-toe with me debating the rules I set for them. The magnitude of her love in the face of my idiocy boomed like a megaphone when I cried over my own children.

How can these sentiments be expressed in journalistic style for the obituary page? In truth, I’ve barely scratched the surface of describing my mother’s life. More experiences lie ahead when the epic boundlessness of her love and sacrifice will be revealed again and again.

A mother’s life is about securing the best for her children and grandchildren. In the absence of financial wealth to purchase this, my mother spent her own blood, sweat, tears, love, wisdom and time to procure success by outfitting us to strive for it.

What words describe your mother’s life or your life as a mother?