When I first came up with the idea of doing 52 things, I brainstormed ideas of things to do with a few close friends; my college roommate/soul sister Julie, my dear friend Kathy, and my awesome co-worker Laura. They had some really great ideas; surfing, some soon to be discovered restaurants, and a historical tour were all ideas they added to the list. One of them (I don’t remember exactly which one) also suggested the super fun idea of preplanning my funeral.
When I added it to the list, I thought it was actually a really promising idea. It was something practical. It was something free, so I could/should do it in February in conjunction with the “not spend any money in a month” to do. It is something helpful. Who hasn’t heard stories of someone passing away and their family having no idea of the desires of the recently deceased? And who wants to leave their family with the burden of trying to read their mind when they are grieving? I also thought it made sense to do the planning now, while I am youngish and healthy. No emotion tied to the planning, right?
My brain rarely shuts off. I keep a notebook next to my bed, because I often come up with solutions to issues in my sleep. The minute my eyes pop open in the morning, I have a thought of something I NEED to talk to Paul about. Like, right now, can’t wait another second for the words to come out. Paul, while he likes to wake up earlier than I do, prefers to awaken in quiet, not a barrage of questions. I think he would really prefer no conversation before 7:00am and not before he has had a cup of coffee and watched a nature show. So, you can imagine the little ball of sunshine I have been this week in the morning.
Monday, 6:30 am
Me: “Paul, when I die, I really think I want to be in a mausoleum.”
Paul: “Uh, why are we talking about this?”
Me: “Remember, this is funeral preplan week on the 52 to do list?”
I am not sure if the OK was “OK, I remember now that this is what you are doing this week” or “OK, we can be buried in a mausoleum” but I am going to go with option 2.
Me: “Paul, when I die, I really want person1 to give my eulogy.”
Paul: “OK, I also think person2 would be a good idea.
Me: “I thought about that too. Great idea!”
See how awesome my husband is! He is contributing to my funeral planning.
Me: “Are you getting up with the dog this morning? Also, I only want upbeat songs at my funeral.”
Paul: “Who had the idea to get a puppy? And if you play On Eagles Wings at my funeral I will haunt you.”
Now we are not only planning my funeral, we are planning his too. This is so efficient!
Me: “Oh my gosh, why is the dog up at 4:30 am!!?? Oh, and when I die, remember I hate carnations. I mean it, do not put carnations in the flowers on top of the casket!”
Paul: “Enough with the when I die!”
So, I think this topic is starting to not be so much fun for Paul??
Friday, 4:00am, dog whining, barking, clawing at kennel
Paul: Hand on my mouth and pillow over his ears
I think we are finished with the conversation about my funeral.
While our early morning conversations hammered out a few crucial details like the flowers, there really are a lot of decisions to be made. And it really isn’t easy to make those decision in a vacuum. Where I want to be buried today probably isn’t the same place I want to be buried if I die 40 years from now, like I hope to. The scriptures I would select to comfort my family if I die young and healthy are probably not the same scriptures I would pick if I die older or after a lengthy illness. Who knows where we will be living when we die? We might move to wherever our kids are living when we retire. Heck, we might move in with our kids when we retire (just kidding Alexander and Bailey).
And while I thought preplanning when death is not imminent would be emotionless, it really wasn’t. I spent an hour reviewing lyrics and listening to performances of songs I thought I wanted. My eyes kept leaking. As I read through scriptures, my mind wandered to funerals of family and friends, and my eyes started leaking again.
I did prepare a document that outlines what I think I want, at least as of today. I explained the joyful and hope filled service I want. I selected songs and scriptures. I drafted my obituary. All of this will go in a safe place, hopefully to be revised many times over the coming years with changes in our lives and in our family. Optimistically, my family won’t read it for many, many years.
As I started writing this post, I got to thinking about death and dying and then about life. And while doing this preplanning was certainly a good exercise and something that might make my passing a little easier on my family, I think the real value in this “to do” was a time to reflect on my life. What do I want my life to have meant? Are there things I really want to accomplish while I can and what is my plan to make those things happen? What do I hope I have taught my children? Do those I love know how much I love them?
Over a decade ago, I lost a really wonderful friend, Linda, to cancer. On her next birthday, I took flowers to her grave. As I sat inside the mausoleum building talking to her in heaven, it struck me that I never sent her flowers for her birthday while she was alive. When this thought hit me, it was like a gut punch. I was so regretful and am to this day. My point is, while we need to plan for our deaths, we need to LIVE, GIVE and LOVE while we are alive. So pick something on your “to do” list and do it this week or this year. Plan that trip, eat on the china, send flowers to a friend.
Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows. Pope Paul VI
On to happier topics next time,