Tag: grieving

The Truth About Last Wishes

Truth has taken on vague connotations in recent years, but there is one truth every sane person agrees about: no one wants to think about their death or plan for it. Those are the last wishes this post ruminates and expounds.

It began for us with a simple mailer. Although for me it began five years ago when my mother succumbed to the war lymphoma won over her physical body.

For my husband, things aren’t so cut and dried. His father’s living under an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, but his physical health is strong. Denial is no stranger to me, so I understand the proclivity to push things off until later.

But later always comes.

Easy and Hard

Death comes for everyone. And after that, those of us remaining will grieve.

That’s never easy. Some deaths are harder to face than others.

But sitting at a table with the funeral director doesn’t have to be hard for those we’ve left behind.

In the case of my mother, she had everything planned out and prepaid. It took us maybe thirty minutes to pick out the pamphlet they’d print for her service and decide where and when to hold it.

It still wasn’t “easy” because our hearts were bleeding. But it could have been worse than facing a firing squad, and it wasn’t.

When my husband or sons have to sit at that table, I want them to have the answers. I don’t even want them to have to see the questions.

Nothing will be easy, but a hard time can be lessened with a little cash and forethought.

Money and Planning

Yes, making death easier to swallow comes down to the money. And the forms the final wishes counselor filled out at our dining room table. There are still too many blanks on those forms, but they’ll be filled in.

My kids had fun joking about spilling the ashes or carrying them around in the trunk of their car. I think my youngest son brought up the idea that the etched box I’m envisioning will become the “white elephant gift” passed between their houses each Christmas.

Yeah, but I’m not dead yet. And although my oldest son had no interest in discussing the subject, we did manage to decide that investing money on a niche or plot to keep the ashes was pointless. No one would visit them after they were interned. Why not set them free somewhere?

My soul will be long gone. “Going up to the Spirit in the sky.”

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-pty-pty_converter&hsimp=yhs-pty_converter&hspart=pty&p=spirit+in+the+sky#id=1&vid=15ccb6d6ae01be80c27fb08acf9d8ca2&action=click

Two advantages of pre-planning and prepaying:

  1. The meeting at the table is about minor details instead of major decisions
  2. There’s no invoice due to double the grim moment

In the End

Truth: I’ll be dead. Those who survive me can choose to follow my plan or do something different.

My last wishes will be paid for already. If they decide to embellish things, they’ll get a bill. If they would rather skimp out on the flowers, box and pretty bookmarks, the funeral director cuts them a check.

In the end, I’ll still be gone. I doubt I’ll be watching from Heaven to see that my last wishes are fulfilled verbatim. I’ll have more important things to do: like gape at translucent gold streets and catch up with my mother and grandmother and others who’ve been enjoying the endless vacation.

And as much as my kids didn’t want to talk about it now, I hope when the time comes, they’ll appreciate that their dad and I took as much of the sting out of a difficult time as we could.

Because that’s what parents do.

Do you have a plan in place for your final wishes? Are there some things you don’t think parents should discuss about this with their kids? Have you faced a more difficult funeral home discussion?

Something for Everyone in I’M ABOUT TO GET UP

Once you pick up this book from Julie Hunt, skip right to chapter 25 and you’ll see why a review of it appears on my “No Fear This Year” blog. I’M ABOUT TO GET UP is a memoir about grief written from a Christian perspective, but it has nuggets of truth to help anyone who wrings their hands when faced with death.

You’re at the funeral, next in line. The family stands there, red-rimmed eyes glistening with tears, hugging each person in turn. What will you say?

I’ll confess that I avoided a number of funerals in my younger years just because I couldn’t imagine how I would interact with the grieving family.

Until I was the grieving family. And I heard those cliché phrases that meant nothing or experienced the deep comfort of a wordless hug.

I’M ABOUT TO GET UP

about_to_get_up_coverThis book came to me before it released to the public. A publicist whose newsletter I follow invited me to be on the “launch team” for the book.

Since I’m intermittently writing my own grief memoir-ish book, I thought reading one would give me an idea how other approach the topic.

I’ll admit, it was difficult to read the book in December. Christmas has been a difficult time since 2009 when my grandmother graduated to Heaven a few days before the holiday.

Julie’s experiences are raw and real. She pulls you in to the Rainy Day with her and the grief she depicts resonates. It was too close to my own heart some days, so it took me a few weeks to get through the less-than-200-page book.

If you read nothing else, read the appendices. Here Julie lists all the things people want to know, the “where the rubber meets the road” practical things. Like what you can do for a grieving person, what NOT to say at the funeral (or any other time) and words that do offer help or hope.

In a world where people want to sweep the grieving process under the carpet, this book is just the dose of reality we need.

My Review

It was obvious from early in the book that Julie’s religious beliefs differed from mine. There were moments when my eyebrows scraped my scalp as I thought, “They did what?!”

Still, that’s not what this book is about. And Julie didn’t defend or expound on her specific spiritual ideals. Well, not the ones that had me gawping. The ones that had to do with facing grief head on? Yep, those she tackles.

Nothing can prepare you for the death of a loved one. I speak from experience at the bedside of a terminally ill mother. When they go, you grieve. A part of you shatters and needs time and care to be repurposed.

Julie goes chronologically through her own grieving process. This approach worked well, making the book read like a novel. If you like “based on actual events” reading, this book fits that bill.

Advice and encouragement for both those struck by grief and those attempting to minister to them is sprinkled throughout the prose. You won’t find sermonizing or patronizing in these pages.

In fact, the best part of the book is the practical, pro-active lists given in the epilogue and appendices.

I give four out of five stars to this book.

My Recommendation

This book is a must-read for every person in ministry. The glimpse inside a grieving heart will offer the best hands-on training a person could get without facing an actual death in the family.

Julie admits that she couldn’t read books when she was grieving, but I think this book is the sort that could be read to a grieving person. It is certainly an exceptional handbook for someone who fumbles with how to comfort others in the face of loss.

If you’ve been grieving a loss for a while and feel like the pain is still more raw than it should be, pick up this book. I promise you’ll see yourself reflected from a page or chapter, and you’ll be able to take the next step toward healing.

Thank you, Julie Hunt, for being real with all of us. Your journey will empower others so they can get up and get back to living.

What books helped you deal with grief and loss on a practical level?

The Double-Edged Sword of Grief

Slice on the forehand and the backhand. Dice with a downward stroke and an upward cut. The thing no one tells you about the grieving process is that its quite similar to a two-edged gladius. Yes, I’m claiming an emotion cuts like a double-edged sword.

She’s finally fallen off her rocker. What sane person would compare grief to a weapon? Perhaps one who is crazy with grief over the loss of someone irreplaceable.

Grief isn’t meant to be a weapon although it does hurt. The analogy isn’t based on the use of the sword but the quality of its edges. It is sharp. No matter how you touch it, you will bleed.

Ah, grief. No matter how you approach it, the edge is sharp and your heart pays the price in red currency.

Case in point: A photograph

Original image from Gospel Bondservant
Original image from Gospel Bondservant

Nothing especially hurtful about a picture of smiling people gathered around a Christmas tree. Except when you realize there can never be another one. Not starring the same cast.

Nope. Can’t recreate it next year. One important person will never attend another family gathering. That place is empty. Like my soul when I reflect upon it.

Looking at a happy moment brings a smile. Then a tear. It cuts both ways.

How can you smile at a time like this?

I have hope that pain is ended and vitality restored. No rainfall mars a walk and no nightfall ends a blissful gathering.

Who can not smile when envisioning such paradise?

Tears fall on the upturned lips. Rain showers on a sunny day. A paradox.

And still it aches. I’m laughing at the recollection but my heart squeezes into the empty juice glass. Grief draws blood during memories.

Case in Point: Success

A new day sheds rays of hope. Time marches onward. Goals can finally be checked off the bucket list. Accomplishments attained after decades of unfulfilled dreaming.

An un-mar-able moment, right? Joy sputters on the empty tank of a special someone no longer present to share it. Grief spills guts while life marches on.

Two edges, you see. If I remember, it hurts. Whether I recall it with laughter or tears, the wound is opened. In a forgetful moment, triumph blasts an exultant peal. Even in victory, defeat comes with the penetrating blade.

Eventually, I’ll find the protective sheath (a scabbard – because the wound will scab over?) for the sword of grief. Time and distance will dull the edge.

Thus another paradox is born. The dull knife hurts worse than the sharpened one.

Irony or agony? Don’t worry. There’s a double-edged sword for that, too.