“What counts is not the enormity of the task, but the size of the courage.”
~ Matthieu Ricard
Be ready for change. Take courage. Impermanence is constant, yet most of us spend our lives looking the other way; or thinking that, should adversity catch up with us, we’ll deal with it; or believing our strong faith will get us through any kind of adversity—no worries. Yet dealing with impermanence is not quite that simple.
Change is inevitable. Change in our families: parents becoming less able, children going to college, faithful pets of many years passing. Change at work: colleagues retiring; peers leaving the “rat race” and moving to a new locale to take care of an aging relative; co-workers dealing with workers’ comp issues and divorce after sustaining an industry accident. Change in community: Long-standing and wise community voices grow silent, buildings from our heritage are replaced, Mother Nature is destroyed in the name of progress.
Certainly there were conversations about dying and death between or among those who spoke from their hearts? Between or among those who listened with openness, putting first another’s interests? Between or among those who understood with compassion? Most of us would have appreciated such conversations; instead, sadly, these conversations never materialized or grazed only the surface of end-of-life issues. Most of us don’t care to pay attention to the results of impermanence; it takes major life changes to hijack our attention. As a result, we are emotionally unprepared, are forced to focus quickly on too many possibilities, lament that we didn’t have end-of-life discussions with our loved ones, and hope for the best. If only we had known what our loved ones wanted?
Later, we try to explain away our behaviors…
- We didn’t talk about it (death)—we wanted to maintain a positive attitude.
- Massive, abrupt changes in health (stroke, sprained ankle with torn tendons and ligaments, prognosis of six weeks to live) turned our world upside down, yet we didn’t know how to begin sharing our deepest feelings.
- I live alone with my dog, yet I couldn’t count on my pet to dial 9-1-1. Guess I need a Plan B.
Have a conversation. Have a conversation now. Have a conversation now when you are of sound mind, when you’re not stressed, when your emotions are balanced, even if you think it’s ridiculous. These conversations become gifts to both you and to your family and friends. Now is the time.
As the initiator of the conversation, decide on the topics to cover, place, and time to meet. Often others will be uncomfortable with the topics of health crises or decisions, your funeral or final wishes if they differ from the “norm,” finances, death, or others. Conversation means you care. You are not alone. Explore this critical information with your loved ones or with a trusted friend.
Many of these topics can be explored through web sites, medical doctors and specialists, or lawyers. To get started, consider questions to ask before an emergency.
Print the answers and make the information easily accessible (perhaps posted on the frig):
- “Street address (and closest cross street)
- Call-back number
- Chronic medical conditions
- Recent medical events, if any”
www.webmd.com “Calling 911: What to do in an Emergency” and more.
Another web site that covers extensive grief support resources by type of loss is www.mygriefangels.org. For basic info on wills and probate or to locate a law firm specializing in this area by zip code, consider www.wills-probate.lawyers.com.
Finally, “The Huffington Post,” based in Washington D.C, carries a blog entry, “How to Have Everyday Conversations about Death and Dying,” by Karen M. Wyatt, M.D.
In the quiet moments: Engage in these important conversations today. The information exchanged will give you peace of mind. Take courage. I care for and love you.
© 2015 Barbara L. Krause