We’re all just trying to get the laundry done, as my friend, Betsy, says.
We know it’s important to plan ahead for things related to dying, death, funerals and wills, both for ourselves, our parents and others we have responsibility for. But so many, many things of all sorts get in our way!
We’ll change that – by Memorial Day! We’re picking Memorial Day as the timeline for this process because the first big tip the experts tell us is to STRUCTURE IT IN. That is, by linking taking action to a specific date, it’s much more likely to happen.
It’s crucial to do this planning for ourselves and others once, certainly. What we are doing right now is getting our plans in place by using Memorial Day as a deadline. Then, once your plan is made keep reviewing the plan on a “structured in” basis – by revisiting your plans and questions every year on the specific date you choose.
Two groups advocate doing this on Thanksgiving:
–Engage with Grace first started after a young woman, Rosaria Bertone, died unexpectedly and the family was completely unprepared for some tough decisions. Her sister-in-law, Alexandra Drane began urging other families to talk about these topics on Thanksgiving, when many families gather together. (Now this organization focuses on a different strategy to encourage planing.)
–The Conversation Project also urges and supports holding these conversations at Thanksgiving.
Those two organizations focus on end-of-life decisions such as how much medical intervention would be wanted, no easy discussion to begin when in a crisis.
What comes next is important to talk about, too. It’s a small step from end-of-life topics to talking about how people want after-death care and funerals carried out, which is the part we’ll focus on here. Thinking about what we want for ourselves, letting others know, and learning what they want is much better done when we’re not in the throes of grief.
So – Thanksgiving. We can talk about the turkey, the weather and football. We can also talk about death – and that’s fitting on Thanksgiving, since some suggest that keeping our death in mind helps us become more thankful for life and perhaps kinder to others.
The first Thanksgiving my extended family talked, we realized that only one of us knew where some important papers were. (Bad idea to have that be the case!). On another Thanksgiving I heard moving stories from my mother-in-law about her experiences with the deaths of her in-laws, which I never would have heard otherwise. Talk about it at every Thanksgiving! This doesn’t have to be done in the same way every year – we’ll brainstorm some approaches in future posts.
A few years ago I simply forgot to bring it up at Thanksgiving. That made me think about how now that I’m in my late 50’s, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check in with people about these topics twice a year.
My birthday seemed like a fitting day! I could review my own choices and check in with my husband. But…somehow that conversation quickly turned into one focusing on my health habits, or lack thereof (more sugar, please!) which might require the use of my plans sooner rather than later. That was NOT the conversation I had in mind.
So, this year I’m moving on to anchor my second date for discussions and preparations for after-death care to Memorial Day – certainly a fitting connection plus it’s half a year away from Thanksgiving!
We finished dealing with taxes this week and it’s time to move on to the only other sure thing in life – death. We’ll take one step at a time with a new blog post every Sunday and Thursday. Your comments are certainly a welcome addition, starting right now, with this post!! We can learn from each other and help each other.
We’ll finish up on Memorial Day, keeping our own deaths in mind as well as honoring those who have gone before.
Step #1 STRUCTURE IT IN
Tomorrow we start by reviewing some of the many planning guides available and choosing one to start the process.