Things I want to keep in mind.

More fear

Another mass shooting.  A crazy guy with a bunch of guns.  A cry for better gun control laws.  Another media frenzy.  We all buy into it; the panic, the anger, the deep seated fear.  We listen to report and dreaded report, on multiple channels and over a multitude of media forums.  Our world seems to get crazier and crazier by the minute.

What can we do as an individual?  How can we live amid this madness?  How do we avoid joining the frenzy?  How do we prevent depression, anger and doom from ruling the day when we feel so powerless?

In truth, no matter how many mass shootings there are, no matter how inept our rulers are, no matter how ruthless our “enemies” are; as individuals our power is limited to our minuscule corner of existence.  We CAN remain informed and mindful of how we are governed. We CAN contact our representatives and let our voices be heard.  We CAN teach our children to be good, caring, strong citizens.   We CAN be good citizens ourselves.  We CAN make right any wrong within our purview and not turn a blind eye.

In times like these, we may feel so powerless, we withdraw, throw up our hands and change the channel. We become apathethic, complacent and hopeless.  Conversely, it is easy to buy into the mayhem; to join the ranks of twitterpaters.  The sky is, indeed, falling.  We become angry, inflexible, verging on hysterical. In both cases, depression and anxiety prevail.

In the paper today, one of the articles I read said the FBI is investigating whether or not the gunman had been “radicalized” by someone.  Aren’t we all at risk of being radicalized on a daily basis?  Watch or listen to the news for 10 minutes and feel the fear mongering sink in.  We have to pay attention to our world, we can’t bury our heads in the sand. BUT we don’t have to join the herd.  Turn OFF the news, set your phone aside.  Walk outside. TALK face to face to someone about something other than the chaos.  Remind yourself that the one thing you can do as an individual is to live your best life beyond and in spite of the frenzy.  Have courage, as often as you can.




Time goes by unfettered.  You certainly can’t slow it down or hold onto it – even if you want to.  When you are young and in the thick of living, time is your rival.  You must keep up with that ticking clock – it rules the day.  As you age, the clock becomes a different kind of rival.  The focus isn’t trying to fit as much into that little face of hours and minutes but to keep that little face from bowling you over.  (In this modern day of technology, the clock no longer has a face….but a digital readout.  I’m outdated in my analogies…)

I recently attended the celebration of life for one of my high school teachers.  It was interesting to see the ensemble of retired teachers in attendance.  They looked so old.  Made me feel young-er, sort of.  Stepping into the old school and sitting in the gym, where I played basketball and sang in concerts and played french horn in the band – I began to feel old again.

The teacher we were celebrating was the business teacher from 1972 until approx 2001.  He coached basketball, football, wrestling and was involved in several other extracurricular business class organizations.  He had a daughter, a son and several grandsons.  When he retired from our school, he moved to another larger city to be near his daughter and son.  He continued to work as a teacher until he was diagnosed with liver cancer a couple of years ago.  By all accounts, he was a very fun-loving, caring and giving person. He loved his wife, his family, playing golf and teaching.  He died in July but they arranged this little celebration for those of us who could attend his funeral in July.

I grew up in a small town and attended a small, rural high school.  My graduating class had 26 students.  Most of us had attended all twelve years of school together.  In those days,  the teachers lived and raised their families in the community as well.  Because they were a part of the community, they were committed to the school and to teaching.  They certainly weren’t there to make money!

Attending the celebration of life was a walk down memory lane.  Of course, there was talk about his life, what he loved, how kind he was and there were funny stories about different points in his lifetime in our valley.  It was sad and funny – as it should be.  Seeing my old teachers, talking about those old days, made me ruminate about my life as a teenager.  I have always known that I have limited memories of those years.  Of course, my focus at the time was about my appearance, my peers and my nonexistent love-life.  In addition to pondering those old days, I also observed the crowd and considered the celebration ceremony itself and how I would do things differently at my own funeral/memorial.

In recent years, I have attended more funerals than in my younger years.  Stands to reason, I am getting older.  Parents, friends, and other family members, are reaching the age of mortality.  These things come to the forefront, not only as we age, but as we lose friends, family or acquaintances through illness or accidental death.  It just feels more prevalent as you consider your own age in the process.  And since my mother is ill and in a memory care facility, I am always thinking about preparations for her funeral.

This was a celebration of life, well after death.  While it was still a bit raw for his immediate family, it wasn’t as difficult or as emotional as it was two months ago at his funeral service.  This ceremony was meant for those of us who couldn’t attend his funeral but still wanted to have a chance to say our good-byes.  There were several speakers, music was played and there was a reading of an open letter written by him a couple of months prior to his actual death.  All very touching and heart-felt.  Then the family requested any comments or stories from the audience (an “open mic” as it were).  Several people shared stories or memories about the teacher, mostly funny little anecdotes or expressing gratitude for his work as a teacher or coach.  Then – hobbling up to the microphone, came a retired teacher – who decided to tell her own life’s story about the horrors of teaching.  She said very little about the man we were honoring.  She was talking to hear the sound of her own voice.  It. was. painful.  And far too long.

This made me question the logic of having an open mic at a memorial/funeral service – it seems there is ALWAYS someone who takes advantage of the opportunity for a captive audience.  I’ve been to several funerals where this has occurred.  So I’ve decided that at my mother’s funeral (and at my own) there will be a precept for the open microphone – something along these lines: “We have limited time so please only share stories ABOUT the deceased.  No need to try to convert anyone to your religious beliefs or to discuss your own life history.  AND if you can’t say it in 10 sentences or less, you really should write it down and send it to the family as a personal message.  Better yet, write it in your journal and have it read at your own funeral.   Thank you for your cooperation.”

Of course, I am being facetious – we really wouldn’t say that but we would want to….  A funeral/memorial should be about the person you are honoring.  Stories about THEM.  Stories that generates a pleasant sensation and something that will bring peace to the family as they remember the person they’ve lost.

Be amazed

The clouds are a very dark gray this morning.  Looks like we’ll be getting more rain.  It has been an interesting summer here in Montana.  It was hot and dry and we experienced a plethora of forest fires – all over the state.  In our area, we had more than our fair share.  From mid-July until a few days ago, we endured very smoky days.  Air Quality was listed as hazardous for the entire month of August.  And then — it snowed in the high mountains and poured rain in the valleys.  The smoke is gone, fires have burned out and everything is very “fall” like.  Nature turned the page to the next season.

I often dream of living in a warm, moderate climate – where the temps occasionally get high or low but for the most part, remain the same year round. But I think I would miss the seasons.  Each season has its own beauty and unpleasantness – the transition period from one to the other is usually the very best time.  You know something different (possibly better) is coming.  Just about the time you think you can’t tolerate one more snow storm, the sun rises and you see the beginning of new life; green grass, trees blooming and flowers poking their heads above the slushy snow.  Last week, when we had reached our limit with the smoke and heat — the rain and snow arrived.  A special gift.  We’ll get weary of all this rain but indian summer will fall into place – warm sun, beautiful fall colors and breezy days.  If I lived in mild weather – would I long for the seasons?

In truth, our lives are like the seasons.  We dream of mild days with no disruptions, no barometric changes.  Could we live in a Utopian world where everything was “fine” every single moment of every single day?  That would be lovely, wouldn’t it?  No one would be sad or lonely; we wouldn’t compete with each other or fight over ridiculous differences; there would be no need for using mood changing medications/alcohol and such; everyone would feel loved and cared for.  Of course, we COULD live in that dreamland – but it is just that; a dream, “never-never land”.

The disruptions and transitions of life are often difficult.  Most of us fumble through trying to find a way out of the gray clouds or a way to stay in the sliver-like ray of sunshine.  Sometimes, we need help but never ask and wallow in our desolation.  Other times, we ask and have great expectations for deliverance from our misery and fear – only to find it short-lived.  We lament our misery and wonder why we can’t find peace.  We internalize our pain and envy others who seem so much more content.

Our lives are wrought with changing seasons; clearing our path of old growth in preparation for the new.   We tire of the same old routine but fear starting over yet again.  We prefer staying in our comfy clothes, on our comfy couches and beds and staying inside – out of the elements.  Change often means a loss of some kind and we wonder if we will survive the conversion.  (Close your eyes and think of the times you thought you would never get through a particularly difficult time.  Be amazed at the realization that you DID get through it.)

Somehow, we manage.  We move on, adjust, re-align our delineation of security and comfort.  We prepare for the coming season of our life — put on an extra layer of clothing for warmth or find a cool stretch of shade; knowing there will be rain or snow – we hunker down and wait for the worst to pass.  If we didn’t have the storms, fires, rain, snow, dry heat – we wouldn’t have the sun, shade, grass, flowers and new-trees.  The same applies to our lives – we lose people we love; we feel lost ourselves, at one time or another; we feel sad and lonely; the old growth is destroyed and the new growth appears with little notice, but it does appear.  Without fail, the next season does appear.

Silliness is essential

Boogers.  Co-sleeping on just 12″ of bed.  Running.  Hiding.  Laughing.  Speaking with a british accent or a very high, strawberry shortcake voice.  The joys of gawee-hood.  Seeing those happy little faces and hearing them squeal your name in delight is beyond precious.  Even before they can speak your name, they wrinkle their noses and smile, waving their arms in glee.  And when those arms reach for you….priceless.

Being a gawee is so much easier than being a mother ever was…there aren’t the competing impediments and anxieties of household chores, jobs, daycare issues, school necessities, clothing inadequacies, financial balancing and just sheer exhaustion from keeping all those balls in the air – day in and day out.  When you are the gawee, you can just PLAY.

I am a very silly gawee.  I am still young (or so I like to think) and I will run, jump and do goofy things just to hear them giggle.  I don’t mind climbing into small areas and pretending it is a cave or that a bed is a boat or that playdoh is dinner.  I will sing off key, making up the words as I go; and holler at the imaginary lions.   But that isn’t half the fun – the true joy is in how they react and join-in.  Watching them use their imaginations, when they stare at my face and try to match my enthusiasm.  Together, we will quote important lines from Disney movies or we will talk about wild animals on the trails as we walk.  When they get tired and ask me to carry them, I ask if they can carry me instead.  I try, unsuccessfully, to crawl into their arms while they laugh and do their best to lift me.  We also tell stories in the bathroom – as a practice routine for potty training.  They will be on the commode and I will sit on the footstool and tell them exaggerated stories while they relax and go “poo”.  They always offer to do the same for me – but I have a pretty well-established routine by now.

As they get older, I know they won’t have the same reactions and desires for frolic and imaginary games.  Life happens and other influences come into play.  The thought of them out-growing Gawee is heartbreaking.  Oh, I know, they will always love me and we will always have a fond, heartfelt relationship but there will eventually be other friends, activities, interests, peers, and the need for independence from old, sillier days as they grow older and go to school.  The most important part of that shift, from giggly toddler to school-age child, is for them to know that I will always be in their corner.  (I don’t HAVE to be silly, but I can be at a moments’ notice).

For now, I will bask in the joy of their adoration.  We will play, laugh, wrestle and run.  I hope to teach them that playing is a lifelong enchantment, one for which they should never feel shame.   And when those sweet and sticky little hands encircle my neck – I know I am living the best life.

Be the playdough you were meant to be…

Life is like a bucket of play dough.  It is nice and soft when you first open it (although it does smell a little funny).  You experience pleasure working it with your hands, squishing and molding, rolling and pulling it apart, only to squish it back together again.  There is some control in the pliability of the dough; you roll it, flatten it, make snakes, snowmen and any number of other things and it will still squish back together into the bucket.  Then, the older the dough gets, the less pliable it becomes.  Sometimes, you forget to close the lid tightly and it gets a little too dry — or you may miss a piece of the dough as you gather it back into the bucket and it becomes completely dry and turns into a little stone of dough.  As the dough loses moisture, it becomes more and more difficult to form and shape; there are pieces of different colors and dirt particles that the dough has picked up over time and use.  Eventually, the dough is no longer vibrant or the original hue.

Like play dough, we start out bright, pliable, squishy and flexible.  As time goes on, our color dulls a little.  We mix with others, take on some of their color and, inevitably, we pick up particles of dirt and carry them with us.  We lose moisture and become crusty around the edges.  The biggest difference is that we are in control of our own lid.

We can be careful of mixing with the wrong color (after all, SOME colors may complement ours and we may be willing to mix with those…..).  If we pick up dirt, we can dust it off or pick it out before it mixes too thoroughly.  We can take care in keeping ourselves moist and pliable (sounds a little gross, I know).  Most importantly, we can accept that the longer we are around, the older our containers get and the inevitably of losing our elasticity is unavoidable.  Oh sure, we can get newer, air tight containers and we can add moisture of some kind — but we are going to get dry eventually, no matter what.  We will be replaced by newer, more vibrant and pliable colors.  That’s just the way it is.

Of course, you COULD keep the lid on, airtight, and put the bucket on a shelf — never bringing it out and never exposing it to other colors, dirt or dry air.  But what is the fun in that?

Oh the shame…

Vulnerability.  Low self-worth.  Shame.  These are the feelings I work hard to suppress.  Every. Day.  Just about the time I think I’ve outgrown those fears – when I feel stronger, brighter, more mature, more confident – a wave rolls in.  What the hell?

Recently, on our vacation trip to Vegas, I got a good dose of insecurity and self-loathing.  I was doing just fine – smooth sailing, minding my own business and from out of nowhere came “Jacob”.  He was a handsome young man, well-dressed, friendly and handing out free samples in front of a little store in the mall.  Free foot lotion samples.  Lovely.  He introduced himself then asked me to come into the store where he could give me a treatment that would help the dark circles under my eyes.  I would like to make those disappear, wouldn’t I?  My husband and I reluctantly walked into the store.  Foolishness!

Jacob was a well-trained salesman – speaking in a calm, soothing voice, with a thick middle eastern accent; he recited facts about aging, skin, the products he was hocking.  He was well-versed about skin care, how the skin breaks down, the layers of skin, blah, blah, blah.  At that point, I’m still feeling okay.  He puts his “miracle” cream under one eye – all the while talking to my husband and I – some small talk and some sales rhetoric…within minutes, the dark circle under my left eye IS lighter and the skin IS tighter.  Tada!  (Side bar: I’ve seen videos about this product on facebook – it really does work!  But here’s the rub, you don’t use it during the day–only at night.  So the benefit of the fact that it holds your skin tighter is lost on the wee hours of the morning as you sleep!  Minor detail Jacob neglected to mention!  SUPPOSEDLY, using it every night for one week will show improvement and then you just do a maintenance treatment of once a week…jury is still out on the actual “noticeable improvement”!)

Jacob promises to fix the other eye as well but, in the meantime, he starts to pitch a face peel product.  Using the inside of my wrist, he shows how the peel very simply takes off the first layer of skin and makes the arm SO SOFT and with a little moisturizer it is so much more incredibly soft than the other arm!  Imagine if that was my face!?  Tremendous.  Now, he starts to introduce the topic of cost…I am normally a hard sell.  I do NOT spend money on frivolous things like face creams (which explains why I have such dark circles and wrinkled skin!).  Let the manipulation persuasion begin!  The tactics were covert and indirect — passively demeaning.  Here are some examples:

  • You are a mother aren’t you?  How many children do you have?  You always sacrifice your needs for your children, don’t you?
  • Why wouldn’t you want to look better?
  • These products won’t change how you look, you will just look like you used to look 10 years ago.  Same you, just the younger version.
  • If you spend this amount, will it take away from your house payment or other necessary bills? (In other words, are you too poor to buy this?)
  • Why wouldn’t you spend this amount on yourself?  Don’t you deserve to feel better about yourself?
  • When we are finished here, I’m going to give you a free treatment to help you get rid of your jowels and your loose neck skin.
  • If you could choose, which would you improve first – your eyes, your jowels or your neck?

Just about the time I was ready to get up out of the chair, he would say that he needed to fix my other eye so that I wouldn’t look lopsided and he would do that BUT…..and then he would launch into another tactic.  An hour and a half later and two FREE treatments under my belt, my husband and I finally walked out of there! And, as much as I hate to admit it, I did buy some of the product.  I spent FAR TOO MUCH money and bought stuff that, while it will last 2 years (woohoo!), I may never use??  Oh sure, I have good intentions but, like anything, you lose interest after a couple of weeks.  Since I did spend what I consider a small fortune on this stuff, I will use it come hell or high water!

The final outcome is that I am upset with myself for falling for the malarkey.  Jacob played on all of my weaknesses and I fell for it.  Yes, I hate my dark circles, jowels and turkey neck – OF COURSE I DO!   When I walked into the store, I was feeling fine – knowing that I’m aging but being okay with it.  When I walked out, I felt that nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach.   Do I look older than I thought?  Is it THAT noticeable to everyone?  And on top of that, I felt SICK at having spent that much money for LOTIONS AND PEELS!  For heavens sake!

The shame of it all followed me all that day.  That night, I told my husband I was going to return everything for a refund.  I was livid and ashamed that I had been so easily manipulated.  My husbands response was  not to worry about it…I didn’t return to the store (frankly, the thought of returning was equally humiliating!).  The whole episode has nagged me ever since.  I’ve been using the product and I don’t doubt that it has improved my skin (wishful thinking?) but I am bothered by how easily I lost my confidence – it only took a matter of minutes and I felt like I was a teenager again, worried about being judged for my gangly appearance and pale face with bug eyes!  I consider myself a strong woman and I’m embarrassed that I didn’t walk out after the first 10 minutes (which was my first instinct)!

After I got home I sheepishly looked at the receipt and was surprised to find written in bold letters on the customer copy, “NO REFUNDS”.  Tells you something, doesn’t it?  I’m not the only person who had buyers remorse — obviously, it was an issue or they wouldn’t print it directly on the receipt!  No money-back guarantees….  I learned my lesson.  When approached with free samples – a strong but polite “NO THANKS” will serve me well.

I am aging.  I have dark circles under my eyes, laugh wrinkles, jowels and a turkey neck — my belly is jelly, my triceps are saggy, and my legs are cottage cheesy.  Such is life.  No amount of money, lotions or fear-mongering can truly change any of that.  And why would I?  I’m here, vertical and happy to be such.  Can’t get any better than that!  If wishing for something different makes you feel bad – stop wishing for something different.  What is real?  What really matters?

For both of us

Recently, I have been missing my mom – which is unusual because we had never been very close.  I’ve been thinking about the way she used to be — about 10 years ago when she was still delivering the mail and stopping by on a whim.   She would call fairly frequently just to fill me in on gossip or ask something about the kids.   In those days, she was a gadabout.  If she got bored, she would jump in her car and drive to some unknown point in the valley or to a neighboring town.

Every Sunday, she played the organ at the country church.  For a time, she would regularly come to our house for dinner after the service.    We had a small family discord and she stopped coming over and rarely called.  As time and her dementia progressed, we lost contact until the memory loss became a safety issue.  By then, when it was time to step in and arrange for her care, she no longer remembered the discord but the disengagement of recent years only made matters worse.  I feel deprived of the last few reasonably normal years of her life before the dementia changed her into a stranger.

As I said, we were never very close but the dementia has forced into grim reality the realization that we have lost any possible opportunity to be close. Looking back into my childhood, I wished for a mother who would talk to me, tell me things, hug me and tell me she wasn’t angry with me.  That just wasn’t meant to be and, now, it truly never will be.  Having to let go of that hope and wish is hard.   It makes me sad for both of us.

Mom remains in a memory care facility.  She has lost a lot of weight and she no longer recognizes anyone.  Her biggest pleasure is when my sister brings her cinnabons or something from McDonalds.  She still walks loops around the hall with her walker and she hasn’t fallen for a couple of months (knock on wood).  It isn’t easy going to visit her – in fact, it is very difficult.  Her face is sallow and her eyes are vacant.  She rarely makes eye contact and only grunts as a response to most questions or she repeats the question.  Somewhere in that shell is a woman who had 4 children, cooked on a wood stove, chopped wood, taught children how to read, delivered mail, played the organ and acted as eucharistic minister in her church.  She was also a woman who wanted to go to college but couldn’t because of financial constraints, a woman who loved her family but always wanted something more – a woman whose true dreams and desires will never be known.

I miss having her around and I wish that things could have been different – for both of us.

Vegas baby

Road trip.  In our retirement, my husband and I like a good road trip.  He loves to drive and I don’t mind riding.  I have an iPad and my crocheting to keep me busy – I will play games, read, email, crochet, until I get tired (then I take a little nap).  SOMETIMES we will chat, but not often.  Periodically, we’ll ask each other the age old question, “What are you thinking about?”.  For me, the answer is usually the kids or something I recently saw on the side of the road.  For him, it is a calculation of miles vs speed and estimated time of arrival – or traffic.  We are very comfortable together and while we are not fireballs of activity when we travel, we do have our own kind of fun and enjoy each others’ company.

Of course, one of the best parts of a road trip is returning home where the coffee is dark, the scrambled eggs are soft and traffic is non-existent.

We’ve just returned from our anniversary road trip – to Vegas of all places.  When we arrived, it was 109 degrees!  Lord, that is hot!  Of course, every casino, hotel and store has air conditioning and you can go up to the pool any time you like.  We discovered it is best to go at 9 am when it is only 90 degrees!    Also, the pool opens at 9 and there is only a handful of people there – you can have any chair you like and you don’t have to fight for a corner of shade!

Normally, I love the heat and, as usual, I had to wear a sweatshirt and warm yoga pants in our hotel room — too cold for moi in the breezy and somewhat arctic air conditioning!   I know this about myself so I did bring jackets to take to restaurants – turns out, I never really needed them.  When it is THAT hot, the cool is a welcome reprieve even for someone who normally can’t tolerate the cold.

Vegas in July also brings LOTS of people on vacation!  We weren’t the only ones who thought we could endure the heat.  Every race and nation was represented in our little adventure.  So many people, vehicles, noises, flashing lights — talk about sensory overload!  People trying to navigate the buses, the pedestrian crossings, the casinos, the menus.  If you are an observer (a.k.a. people watcher), you will get your fill in Vegas.

Here are my observations:

  • Vegas is the place to wear your best slut costume (if you are female) and your cargo shorts with full pockets (if you are male).
  • Everyone is in their own little world on the streets but at the craps tables – they are all best of friends!
  • Hardcore gamblers sit at a machine and fill their ashtrays…a lot of gamblers are also smokers.
  • Rarely do you ever feel judged in Vegas.
  • There are buffet meals everywhere!
  • To be a barmaid, you must wear a push-up bra and a scoop neck shirt to show cleavage.
  • You must be prepared to say NO multiple times to multiple sales people – if they offer you something for free — just say “no thanks”.  Free means either you sit through a 2 hour presentation for a timeshare or you are cornered into buying some very expensive face cream!  They are on every corner; in every nook and cranny!
  • So much money exchanges hands in Vegas.  I was just amazed.

There were other observations but I realized as I wrote them that I was being a bit JUDGY – so I kept them to myself.  All in all, we enjoyed our trip.  It is always fun to get away together.  We talked about how we met and how much we still love each other.  That was the highlight of the trip and made everything worthwhile.  Here’s to another 31 years!

The gift of peace

My mother-in-law passed away peacefully on June 10.  She was in hospice care for one week.  I hope she has gotten back to her bridge club.

Funerals are difficult and no one likes attending them.  It is a time to say goodbye; to show support for family or friends; a time to reflect on the life and times shared with the dearly departed.  Depending on the person, a funeral can be very personal or very religious or very long or very short and not so sweet or a combination of all the above.  There can be music, prayers, readings, masses, poems, speeches, fire and brimstone, tearful goodbyes.

My family lost four important members in a 4 year succession.  We learned a lot about funerals and how to plan and implement a decent, respectful and personal service.  There are so many details that you just don’t know about – so many choices to make.  What type of service?  Where will it be held?  Who will preside? Will there be a viewing?  Casket or urn?   Flowers? Special program for the service? Who will write the obituary?   Where will they be laid to rest? Who will be pall bearers?  Will there be a reception afterwards?  Where will it be held?  Who will bring food?

These are all details that people have to think of when they are at their weakest and most vulnerable.  For some of us, having something constructive to “do” actually helps.   For others, it is overwhelming.  It is a very emotional and raw time.

In the case of my mother-in-law, she requested a full catholic mass.  She belonged to a large church and the priest did not know her personally.  The service was typical of a full mass and because the priest knew nothing about her, he read her obituary during the sermon portion of the service.  He mispronounced her name and the name of her home town (Butt? Montana).  He had not read through the obituary beforehand so it was read in a choppy manner and it was hard to understand.  It was supposed to be a celebration of her life and it really wasn’t.  Fortunately, at the reception afterwards, the family held a more personal service in remembrance of their mother.

There is a saying, “Funerals bring out the worst in people”.  Families have broken apart in the aftermath of a funeral – the loss of a loved one and the arguments that ensue.  Past hurts come to the forefront and the battle over material things can be a detriment to most families.   Wars are waged and lines drawn in the sand over grandma’s crystal gravy boat or the diamond dinner ring.  It just isn’t worth it but it happens frequently.  Having a will is very important for legal reasons but it is the responsibility of the survivors to deal with division of property and personal items with consideration for each other and in honor of the memory of the departed.

I realized after my dad’s funeral that it is important to think about, and to make known, what your wishes are prior to your death.   But it will save your family a lot of stress if you also plan what you want as a final goodbye.  I have a file titled – “when I die” and it talks about what I want for a service.  It is not overly specific, just little tidbits.  Songs I like, that have special meaning to me; things I feel would be nice to say about my personality; my feelings about religion; how much I love my kids,  grandkids and my husband.  Most importantly, I have included my wishes that my children stay close – rely on each other – no matter what.

I’ve heard it said that it is morbid and depressing to think and talk about those things.  I don’t feel it is because it provides clear instructions for your loved ones and saves them the stress of having to wonder what you would prefer.  It can be as specific or generalized as you want it to be.  In truth, there are so many things that we don’t know about each other and that we don’t normally share.  I’m certain that my mother, who now has dementia/alzheimers, had no idea that she would never have the chance to say the many things that she was saving for “someday”.   There are so many things about her that we don’t know, she never shared, and now there is no one to ask.

It is sad to think of your final days, your final resting place, leaving those you love behind.  None of us knows WHEN that will happen, but we do know that it WILL happen.  To provide a means of saying a final goodbye and of saving your loved ones from that difficult process is truly a gift.  Your final wishes conveyed in black and white will give all of you peace.


Getting back to Bridge Club

She loved to play cards.  One of the most difficult parts of her illness in the end was that she couldn’t play bridge anymore.  That was borderline devastating.  How would they ever find a replacement for her at bridge club?

She had sclerosis of the liver, diabetes, a disease similar to leukemia and heart failure.  The combination kept her homebound for the last few months of her life.  This was the worst form of torment for her.  Normally, she had an activity on each day of the week – Bridge club, pinochle, bunko, newcomers club.  If you called to invite her to attend something, you had to squeeze it into her busy schedule.  She kept herself busy and had many friends right up until she could no longer drive or walk very far or travel.

She loved being the center and if she wasn’t, she would find a way to place herself there.  She was kind and loving but she was also bold and brash when she wanted to be.  She would tell it like she saw it — whether you liked it or not.  Getting older was very difficult for her – she fought it every step of the way.  Shortly before she died, after returning home from the hospital for the umpteenth time, she no longer wanted to hear about hospice or funerals or churches.  In exasperation she said, “I just want to get back to playing bridge, I’m not dead yet!”

The week before she died, we had a surprise party for her.  All of her children were there and most of her grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.  She had just gotten out of the hospital for the last time.  It was time for hospice.  Initially, when we rolled her into that room filled with people, she was a little confused as to what was going on – but then she realized that this was her family, all of her family, and she broke down in tears.  We ate dinner, sat around and visited and then took pictures of everyone, together.  I’m sure that was her favorite part, the photos.  Of course, she didn’t have a chance to refresh her lipstick…spent a few minutes looking for anyone with a tube of red lipstick then we finally gave up and just took the photos.

She didn’t talk much that day, which was very unusual.  I suspect she was exhausted and in need of a warm bed, but she smiled and smiled.  So happy to be with her family, happy that they did this for her.  Happy to have the chance to see them for the last time.  We all knew this.  It was as hard for us to believe as it was for her.  I still can’t imagine a world without her.

The funeral mass is Thursday, the burial on Friday.  It will be a strange thing – as funerals often are – realizing that she really is gone.  I only knew her for 32 years, she was my mother-in-law, but I will miss her.