Recently, I read a book called A Man Called Ove. In this story, Ove’s wife has died, and Ove, the curmudgeonly, husband, missed her so much that he could not go on living. He decided he would end his life and hoped she would forgive him. He tried several times, but each time was unsuccessful. But where he was successful, he had all his legal documents in order. Most people are not as organized as Ove. Most of us fear death, but death is very much a part of life. With that, I would like to share my experiences with death.
When my oldest brother died, I became sad and depressed. I realized that he would not be around for any of our family gatherings and that there would be one fewer plate at the dinner table.
My husband, Larry, and I are often referred to as nomads. We have lived in a variety of places. For a while, we lived in Mandan, North Dakota, close to our family. While there, I took care of my mother’s finances and one of the things I did was purchase a ‘‘burial CD’’ for her. When it was time for my mother to go into a nursing home we moved to Boise, Idaho. While in the nursing home, my mother suffered a stroke. All her children came home to see her. We each spent some time alone with her. When it was my turn, I was able to say goodbye and tell her that I loved her, knowing that I would not see her again. That evening while my family was sharing a meal, I suggested that we start preparing for our mother’s funeral. The next few days we went to the funeral home, picked out her casket and vault, chose the dress she would wear, and selected everything else that needed to be planned. When the time came, there were no arguments, no stress, just time to celebrate the life of our mother.
My takeaway from this experience is, to make life easy for those left behind. To do that for my family, I have written my will, advanced health care directive, and obituary, planned my Celebration of Life service, and have funds set aside so the financial burden is not their responsibility.
When my second oldest brother was dying, he and one of my sisters had not spoken to each other for a while. But before he died, she was able to talk to him and reconcile their differences.
My takeaway from this experience is, do not wait to call and tell someone that you are sorry, to ask for their forgiveness, and to tell them you love them.
My next older brother was a hoarder. The only uncluttered space he had in his house was a path from his dining room to the bedroom. His children knew nothing about his finances. He eventually ended up in a nursing home where he died. His children were left to do the uncluttering. And sad to say, they did not have the time to check each piece of paper to see what value it had. So, who knew what went in the trash?
My takeaway from this experience is, if you have not done your spring house cleaning, do it. Give away what you can and make a list of who should get what. Be sure you have your finances in order and someone knows what you have and where the account numbers and passwords can be found in an emergency. We have developed a Financial and Personal Information form that has important contact information on it including banking, investments, retirement, pension, and much more. This document is updated yearly, and copies are given to our daughters.
Larry’s best friend, Scott, and partner Lois visited us in Ajijic. While there, we introduced them to many of our friends. Lois died a few years ago. While visiting Scott a few months later, he asked me to go through her closet and take something as a memory of her. Going through her closet and touching her things meant a lot to me. I thought of some of our friends she had met and asked Scott if I could pick something out for them also. I had picked out a dress for myself and sweaters, tops, and jackets for my friends. For the longest time, I had the dress hanging in my closet before I had it altered. Now, every time I wear or see it, I think of Lois, and every time I see my friends wearing something of hers, I think of Lois.
My takeaway from this experience is, to choose to live in the Land of the Remembered. When I die, I want my daughters to plant a flowering tree or bush in their backyards. Give possessions of mine away for others to keep my memory alive.
Every year Larry and I review our will, advanced health care directive, obituary, Celebration of Life, Our Wishes, and Financial and Personal Information. Saying goodbye is never easy. We decided to do all of this while we can do it. When we have to face a health crisis we’ll be prepared. Are you?
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