Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.
“Lady Lazarus,” Sylvia Plath
Death is perhaps perceived to be the hardest conversation to have with loved ones. Yet I remember when Dad was 93 he asked me if we had plans for him and Mom. Earlier that day, my brother and I had gone to the funeral home that would handle both our parents upon their death. We did this because we were both going to his son’s wedding in Texas and if anything happened we wanted to be prepared (we were especially concerned about Mom). Dad was the signatory for Mother’s cremation, therefore involved in the process.
I told Dad that we would take both his and Mom’s ashes to the Dallas-Ft. Worth National Cemetery and have them placed in the same vault. We had chosen this location because my father’s nephew and best friend, a US Army Flag officer, was buried there. Afterwards, we would all congregate and have Mexican food and margaritas.
He approved of the plan and that’s exactly what we did! He and Mom died exceptionally well and were celebrated by many who loved them.
This past Saturday I went to Carol Murray’s memorial planned by Christina Bracken, who cared for Carol the last year of her life. Christina had come to this unenviable position through the Key Biscayne Community Foundation. She volunteered to assist seniors at risk during the pandemic. Christina and Carol both spoke German, hence the coupling.
Carol’s last year was a series of ups and downs, during which Christina was by her side. And as a participant in the service I can say that, despite her last year, she died well. It wasn’t a harsh death. Her dog had been adopted by a loving family. Other than the fact she was in the hospital alone due to the pandemic, she died in her sleep.
Carol’s memorial was a nice mix of great stories and a spreading of ashes. It brought memories -- and closure.
Perhaps the hardest part of growing old is watching your friends leave you. I, like many of you, have had friends die in their 40s and 50s from cancer, stroke, accident or heart attack. But they have been the exception, not the rule. At the age of 80 or 90, death is the norm.
So, look around at those you know and love. Have you gleaned all you can from their wisdom? Have you asked to hear their stories? Do you feel good about the relationship? If the answer is yes – a good death is ahead.
Just be sure to discuss it with them, let them be involved one last time.
About H. Frances Reaves, Esq.
A graduate of University of Miami Law School, Frances spent ten years as a litigator/ lobbyist. She founded Parent Your Parents to assist seniors and their children through the myriad of pitfalls and options of "senior care". If you have any questions or comments contact Frances at firstname.lastname@example.org