Plans…..who needs them?
As a former professional chef, and event manager I really do understand the importance of a good plan. I am the consummate list maker and get giddy at the sight of items crossed off a list. I approach parties with plans of dishes to create, recipes printed, timelines posted. My week starts out with a general M-F list, getting more specific after comparing my appointment list with my Mother’s schedule, who isn’t driving her car these days. (Must work on that!)
But life….life has a way of taking a plan and messing with it. When I learned to let go a little and let the big things in life unfold before me, I released a lot of anxiety. The list maker in me still quietly takes back the wheel from time to time and then things get interesting. The importance of plans never becomes any less important, but the willingness to accept when a plan needs to be altered is the big lesson.
As a death midwife I have become more and more impacted by just how death negative we are as a society. We will avoid the subject at any cost, and we will avoid planning for it at the peril of those who love us. I looked around the internet and through book stores for not only end of life planning manuals, but manuals that would address all the big life altering decisions. I was really surprised that I didn’t find anything that encompassed everything within one cover, so I decided that I would write my own. My intention was to use this work book as a tool in my end of life business. I could use the work book to coach end of life clients and create a comprehensive plan to address all their big-ticket decisions regarding life altering illnesses, injuries and even all their end of life plans.
It’s finished now….all pretty and organized and ready to be used in several different formats. The strangest thing happened though…once the final touches had been finished, I was not sleeping, I felt like I had constantly had one pot of coffee too many….what was the deal? One especially frustrating night I could not even get to sleep. I gave up on trying at 2 am and went down into the family room to pace and ponder. Suddenly in the wee hours, it dawned on me that the answer had been right in front of me all along. Apparently I needed to get really exhausted mentally and physically to see it. The workbook was just the first step….the workbook was a companion to the book I really needed to write.
Out came pen and notebook and I dashed off ideas until dawn. Before me a book idea took shape and became as real as if I was already holding it in my hand.
Why don’t we have a more open mind about planning for our end of life when we know that the one sure thing in this world is our exit out of it? We just don’t relate! We’ve never died before…we don’t know how to make rational sense of it. Once we’ve lost someone close to us, our perception begins to shift. Once we’ve lost a child, parent or partner, our perception literally takes a quantum leap into a new awareness. When we are the one who is affected by the lack of planning, it becomes real and it becomes real very quickly.
I decided to compile all those stories and bring together the journeys of survivors. I started reaching out to friends who have suffered loss and then cast the net a bit wider to acquaintances and I keep going a bit wider and wider.
The poignancy of the story of a woman whose healthy husband was killed when their girls were still in middle school without even so much as a will just made my heart hurt. There was a crisis unfolding in the emergency room with decisions to be made with no time to waste. What would he want? What life saving measures would he want taken when it was already clear that he would never fully recover? When he succumbed to his injuries there were decisions to be made and no time to waste. What would he want? Should she donate his body? Should she donate his organs? What would he want? Why had he never even checked the box on his license for organ donation after they had talked about it? Well, she thought they had talked about it, but she suddenly couldn’t remember for sure. Should she bring the girls in to say goodbye? His injuries couldn’t be hidden…what would he want? Ma’am what funeral home would you like us to call? What would he want? Ma’am what would you like us to do with your husband’s body? Have you thought about burial or cremation? What would he want? Ma’am how will you be paying us for our services? Did your husband have life insurance? The weight was crushing her and all she wanted to do was go back to that morning at the breakfast table when they were squabbling about who was going to pick the girls up after school.
When you’ve just lost the love of your life the burden of just breathing can be almost too much to manage. Why when you are more vulnerable and broken than you have ever been should you be asked to make all these tough decisions? And that’s why we all need a plan. That’s why we need to practice love in action and push ourselves to record exactly what we want before there is a crisis.
We learn through story, we grow from walking along with someone else as they tell us what they experienced firsthand. We have our “Aha” moments when we feel the utter abandonment a person felt when they realized that everything was now on their shoulders. Life was never going to be normal again. Someone has to get up and make the arrangements. That someone is the spouse, partner, child, or parent. That someone could be you. Will you know what to do? Will you know how to honor your loved one?
We are an aging society. We can’t avoid our future, and we can’t escape our ending. What we can do is plan for it. What we can do is record all our wishes. What we can do is ease the burden of the one left behind just a little bit by emptying their hands of some of the crushing decisions.
That’s what my book is going to be all about. Stories that will make us all sit up and take notice. Stories that will sweep us away with tears and some that will uplift us with hope. Now I realize that the workbook was mean to be a companion to the book I am now researching.
I end this post with asking a favor of you. Do you have a story to tell? Do you know ANYONE with a story to tell? I am currently interviewing all kinds of survivors. I am continuing to look for people who have had spouses and partners die unexpectedly. A plan may have been in place, or perhaps there was no plan at all. I’d like to speak to you either way. I’m also looking for people who had a close loved one, spouse or partner suffer a life altering illness or accident. Again, if there was a plan in place, or none at all, I’d like to talk. And finally, if this doesn’t pertain to you, I know for sure that you know someone who it does pertain to. Please pass this post along to them. Please share this on twitter. Please share this on Facebook.
I am on a mission, and I need your support to make it happen. I thank you, I honor you and I appreciate your support. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am already scheduling interviews and will continue for at least another month. I hope to hear from so many interested people who I am still interviewing in March! Many thanks to each on of you….and keep on sharing.
“The human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories.” –Mary Catherine Bateson