When Loretta moved from assisted living to nursing care at age 92, she knew the space around her bed would be smaller. She had to choose which framed photos to take with her. She selected a group photo of her three children, eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren taken a few years ago at her 90th birthday party.
On the wall in front of her bed, her family placed Loretta’s university diplomas, her law degrees and a certificate designating her qualification to argue cases at the Supreme Court. So much of Loretta’s identity related to those accomplishments. She had been in the vanguard of women who had a career and raised a family before the two generations that followed her considered it commonplace.
While Loretta lived in the assisted living area of the home, she could still move around, meet the other people , eat in the dining room and participate in social activities. Now, she had trouble swallowing and needed to be fed with a tube. She had never been a whiner. Her mind was sharp: she knew she had to do this if she wanted to stay alive. Her first great granddaughter was taking the bar exam; Loretta wanted to live to congratulate her. Loretta stared at the diplomas on the wall in front of her and savored her memories.
Loretta is leaving a legacy for her family which no amount of money could have provided. In life, and now moving towards death, she is doing it her way. Frank Sinatra would have loved her!
Psychiatrists have long equated the reluctance to write a will, prepare an advance directive or estate plan, with fear of dying.
Who wants to think about planning for death? We have to confront our mortality. No more illusions that it won’t happen to us. We have to face giving up our possessions and power. We have to deal with uncomfortable subjects like aging, illness, death, inheritance and a host of other things we’ve managed to avoid thinking about.
Having the ‘money conversation’ is rarely ‘just about money’. It’s also about family dynamics, mistakes, regrets, guilt, and a host of other issues. Children feel morbid, greedy and intrusive asking their parents questions about money and death. The parents don’t want to start conversations about ‘touchy’ subjects either. The result – people procrastinate, hoping for the best. Hope is not a strategy. It’s a procrastination tool and most often, it doesn’t work.
Click the buy the book button:
Check out the guide for opening the conversations that matter between parents and children.Follow the check lists for what parents need to put in place so children aren’t burdened with a financial and legal mess after parents die.
It’s truly an act of love for parents to get their affairs in order.
The poetry of life often lives in the daily rituals, the ordinary activities we often do mindlessly without appreciating how lucky we are to be doing them. Not me, not ever again.
One of my favorite ordinary things is making coffee in the morning. Grinding and inhaling the aroma of the beans, filling the coffee maker with water, emptying the ground beans into the filter, and pushing the brew button. How much more ordinary can you get?
Ever since my husband died suddenly in an accident years ago, I’ve been aware that ordinary events can turn extraordinary in a second. The Boston bombings, 9/11, a plane or car crash, a fatal heart attack, a drive by shooting or the diagnosis of a terminal illness. These sudden events, woven into the tapestry of daily life, are reminders that the ordinary is a gift.
One of my favorite poets celebrates the ordinary. Jane Kenyon, who died of leukemia at the age of forty-seven, understood the importance of celebrating the dailiness of life.
I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.
At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.