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Why do I want to die and have all my friends and family gather and “celebrate my life” without me present? It doesn’t seem fair that I don’t get to hear how wonderful I am (was) simply because I’m dead. Why can’t we have the celebration of life while we’re still living?

Yes, it sounds preposterous, but is it? First, most people live to be over age 75. It’s true, too, that most people do not want to face death, although it is an inevitable part of life. I know some people who knew death was within the next 48 to 72 hours (cancer, ALS) and they said their ‘private’ goodbyes – usually with family and close friends. That left me out and I wonder if it’s the choice of the dying or cultural.

We don’t want to have a crowd with us when we’re in hospice because everyone tends to feel uncomfortable and cry. But, what’s wrong with tears? In some cases, it’s a sudden death and everyone is bereft. There was no time to say goodbye.

Everyone wishes they had.

Is it possible to have a clarion call to action in which celebration of life parties begin at age 80? It’s like the ‘gender reveal’ parties, but better! We choose a time (birthday?) when we invite everyone to a celebration of life and repeat it every five years (assuming they’re compos mentis).

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The idea would be for the person to hear what everyone has to say about them and tell the stories they would if he/she were gone. Imagine the smile it would bring to their faces having everyone they hold dear gather to celebrate them. That was my father’s 90th birthday and it was a fabulous experience for young and old alike.

My cousin had one when she turned 80 and, again, we were all happy to be there. Dad didn’t live to 95; otherwise another celebration would have been planned.

Death is an uncomfortable word. It’s hard to imagine ourselves as the reason for a funeral; harder still to imagine ourselves in our 80s (70 doesn’t seem so far away now). Yet, the idea of taking the time to celebrate our lives with family and friends seems like “the right and proper thing to do” (line from the song, “With a Little Bit of Luck,” from My Fair Lady). When we attend funerals, memorials and/or celebrations of life it’s because a bad thing happened. If we use the term “celebration of life” for the living, we’ll all have much more fun.

I know, I know, it’s an outlier thought! Still, we all live longer these days. Let’s celebrate! What’s wrong with honoring ourselves, our age, and the combined us? What do we have to lose?


Frances Reaves, ESQ is a graduate of University of Miami Law School. Reaves spent 10 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 Reaves at hfrancesr@parentyourparents.com

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