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Generational Graduation

Generational Graduation

It’s the time of year when caps and gowns are all the rage, when adorable preschoolers become kindergartners, middle schoolers become big, bad high schoolers, and college students become full-fledged adults.

Over the years, though, another type of graduation has crept up on me, and it wasn’t one I planned for or anticipated.

While I still sometimes feel like the baby of the family (a title I held for almost 25 years), time has advanced my rank. My generation, whether parents ourselves or not, has unwittingly advanced to the parental generation as a new crop of kids/nieces/nephews/cousins has taken over the role of being cute enough to get away with their shenanigans.

Our parents are now grandparents, and our grandparents are, well, I haven’t had any of my own for quite some time.

A Life Well-Lived

Last weekend we said goodbye to a beautiful lady who was nearly 90 years old. Her passing wasn’t a surprise, but that didn’t make it any less heart-wrenching.

Like my grandfather, who was my biggest cheerleader and never had a harsh word for his five grandkids, this lady was also fiercely loyal to her family. When neighbors tattled on her grandsons, she told the busybodies to, “Get the hell off my porch!” Rumor has it she never again socialized with these nosy neighbors.

She made the world’s best scrambled eggs and only recently shared that her secret ingredient was a heaping scoop of bacon grease. And cheese. Lots of cheese.

She did what she wanted, when and how she wanted, and had more grit per pound than anyone I’ve ever met. She was married for 40 years and survived her husband by 27 years.

Wow.

Funerals Are For The Survivors

The idea of attending a funeral is never appealing, yet I’ve never ever regretted the experience.

Funerals aren’t for the deceased. They’re for the survivors: the family, the friends, the caregivers, the people who come together to celebrate a lifetime of love and laughter. They’re a way to share time, stories, and memories from the different seasons and layers of a person’s life: to paint a more vibrant, more detailed picture than the one you could paint alone.

Whether at the services themselves or during the time spent and meals shared over the surrounding days, coming together with others who loved your loved one creates a precious experience that softens the grief and eases the loneliness. You all know that the last thing your loved one wanted was for those she loved to be sad.

A Reminder

Most of us don’t know how much time we have left to live, so we pretend it’s unlimited.

It’s only when we start to decline that we pay attention, and sometimes it’s too late. When we can’t see, can’t read, can’t focus on pictures or recognize the faces of those we care about most. When we can’t hear, can’t follow conversations, can’t talk on the phone to our families and best friends. When we can’t walk, can’t leave the house, can’t maintain our independence.

Today, I offer you a challenge.

Find your bucket list, and complete something on it. Book those flights. Enroll in that class. Call and make up with that old friend.

Then, make sure your paperwork is complete AND you’ve spoken to the people who need to know about it.

Complete a living will that details your medical wishes. Choose a power of attorney for when you can’t make or communicate those wishes on your own, and make sure your POA agrees to uphold your wishes. If he/she won’t agree, choose someone else.

Make a will. Even if you don’t think you have much, make one anyway. Make sure your daughter gets your favorite photo album and your grandson gets your favorite bell collection. Make sure your body gets donated/cremated/buried with the ashes of your family pet inside the coffin. It doesn’t have to be complicated and it should only take a few minutes to fill out online. Make sure your next of kin has a copy of this and knows where the original is kept.

Being prepared doesn’t mean that you’ll die sooner, but it does mean that your family will have more peace when you do.

What ways do you recommend for celebrating the lives of your loved ones? Let me know in the comments below.

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Uncertainty: Am I Dying Or Am I A Fool?

Comments 19

  1. Beautiful post, Julie. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    I can totally relate. My grandma lived to be 97. She was the first important person in my life to pass. When I look back at the fun experiences my brother and I had as kids, most of them were with my grandmother. She took us to amusement parks and on trips, and made us laugh.

    I celebrate her life by taking out my small “pin collection” I inherited from her. My grandmother loved wearing pins on her blouses and sweaters — inexpensive costume jewelry but magical to me as a little girl, nonetheless.

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      Author

      Thanks, Mrs. G. I love how simple symbols can make us remember the good times. For this lady, it will be bells. For my grandfather, it’s balloon animals and costumes. After decades of being a straitlaced architect, he went to clown college and took acting classes. He went to the mall on Halloween and made balloon creations for the kids, and he played an astronaut, Abe Lincoln, Jimmy Durante, Elvis, etc. in countless productions at the senior center. I don’t have any physical mementos from those costumes, but I have amazing photos.

  2. Sorry for your loss. The best I can say is think about and remember those times that really personifies your relationship with that person. It’s been a while since an important person in my life is shuttled on, but as with everyone else it’s only a matter of time.

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      Thanks, FTF. We’re actually anticipating quite a few in the next few years, so stocking up on Kleenex… But also cherishing these moments and memories.

  3. Sorry for your loss, Julie. Losing a loved one, even one who drank deep of life and love, is always hard.

    and yes, it’s a great reminder that time is ticking for all of us. There are things to do that are so much more important than our everyday activities, and yet they get put aside to make room for work, trips to the grocery store, housecleaning, and Netflix. Great reminder that we need to do a better job of prioritizing getting our affairs together and living a life of impact and no regrets.

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      Thanks, Emily.
      The day-to-day tasks are certainly necessary, but it still amazes me how time can pass and we find it has been months or years before we’ve done anything truly meaningful. Even if we can’t DO those things today, we can put them on our calendar and put the wheels in motion.

  4. So sorry for your loss, Julie. Losing loved ones at that age is certainly still hard.

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately having lost a number of family members recently. I try to pull character traits and lessons from their lives and incorporate those into my life to keep them with me.

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      Thanks, Matt. You’re also helping to pass those traits along to another generation of kids who aren’t lucky enough to know the originals. I’m sure you’ll put a new twist on things and make them even better!

  5. She sounds like a wonderful lady, Julie. So sorry for your loss. Our community has suffered a number of losses in the last few years and three significant losses (with one happening today) in the last few weeks. These were all younger folks too – 47, 35 and 48. And that really hits home. We “expect” older folks to fall ill and pass, but when your peers start doing that – it’s an eye opener. We made our wills, living wills, and POA’s a year ago and even though it was stressful – we have peace now knowing that our children won’t have to figure all of that out.

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      Oh Vicki, I’m sorry for your losses too. You’re right that we only expect people older than we are to pass away, and it’s a shock when the young seem to go too soon. This lady’s son died a few years ago, and she’s been on a steep decline since then. I think it truly broke her heart.

      Your children will be grateful that paperwork can be the least of their worries when the time comes, and they can focus on celebrating your full and wonderful lives… at least 50 years from now!

  6. I’m very sorry for you loss, Julie. Even when we know the time is nearing, it doesn’t make the loss any easier.

    I love your advice. Death isn’t something we want to think about, so it’s something we tend to put off. But having the will and livings wills in place are important gifts to your family. And even though it’s not something we like to think about, I think we live our days better when we remember our time is finite.

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      Thanks, Amanda.
      I think PF and FIRE folks have a better grasp of this than most, but I’d bet that we’d all make some different choices if we knew this day/week/month was our last.
      I hope you and your family are well.

  7. Hey, Julie. Sorry for your loss. It’s never easy. I lost my last grandparent a couple of years ago. We knew it was coming, but it still hurt. As you pointed out, funerals are for the living. Death is an unflinching reminder that life is short and it’s best not spent bickering over foolishness. Hail the bucket list. Hail living a life of family, friends, and adventure. And hail terrific bloggers who turn sorrow into beauty.

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  8. Hi Julie! I am so sorry for your loss. There are certain people in our lives that will always leave an imprint. It sounds like this lovely lady was one of them. Even though it was expected, you are right, it never makes it easier. I hope you are healing and able to focus on all of the positives. The final memories soon give way to all the others you built up over the years. The good ones that make her spirit live on. Sounds like you are already picking from the good which is a great way to share her legacy.

    My family has may ways to honor our loved ones. We have a family picnic on one grandmothers birthday and a golf outing for my Papas. I don’t know what we will do to honor my Nana but I have my own little prayer going for her. Each Friday at noon I had an alarm set to call Nana. I decided not to turn it off and instead to take those same moments to think of her. This Friday when it went off was a little reminder that even though she is gone I can still have a quick chat, and so I did! It makes me feel better to keep with that routine. 🙂

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      Thanks! I love your idea of continuing to celebrate on birthdays to remember the good times and bring the family closer together. Friday has always been family day for us too, so I hope you continue your chats with your Nana. I don’t know what happens after we die, but I like to think about my grandfather smiling down on and watching over me just as your Nana continues to care for you.

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      My husband and I recap our daily ‘Top 3’ as well. It’s nice to make sure we end each day on a positive note and we find comfort in the ritual. Have a great week!

  9. sorry for your loss.no doubt she would be nice lady for you but this is the reality of life we can,t ignore it.grand parents are love they are sweet and loving they usually get involved emotionally to their grand childs and we also as well.

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