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.
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.
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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