A Final Ceremony for Mickey

The conservative county that I live in isn’t always know for its welcoming attitudes toward the homeless.   While there certainly is much to debate about the best way to help folks like this who need assistance, and there surely is room to improve, this story (from our local Williamson County Sun) at least gave me hope that there is a goodness and a respect around honoring the deceased (no matter their status) that provides a bit of hope for the future, for change.

Wilcohomelessfuneral

Across the U.S., probably across the world, there are so many folks whose remains end up unclaimed, their names at times unknown, their lives uncelebrated and easily forgotten, their remains left on a shelf, in a box, to be eventually buried–or not.

While the system isn’t always perfect, I commend Judge Gravell and the folks who worked to honor Mr. Forrest in death, and helped to ensure that Mickey Forrest’s passing didn’t go unmarked.

I hope he rests peacefully beside Old Donahue Creek.

For The Love of A Child

Until recently, my plans for my body were short and sweet, and focused on frugality above all­­–cheap cremation, simple memorial service, sprinkled in two very meaningful places when possible. Caskets, viewings, memorial markers, all unnecessary as far as I was concerned for me: just burn me up, simple and be done with it.

(This, incidentally, is changing­­.  The more I understand natural burial, the closer I get to buying my plot at Eloise Woods and not wasting all these nutrients in the fire!)

For my kids, though, my answer is totally different. I’m not sure I could burn them. I think I would need the viewing, the time with their bodies to say goodbye, and the marker, the place to go visit them. Since these would be the final costs I would ever incur for them, cheap wouldn’t matter either, ­­at least not in balance to the love and persistence I would want for my child’s memory.

In that mindframe, I find this cemetery marker to be incredibly moving, and an amazing visionary tribute to a beloved child.

Wheelchair

As explained by EnjoyUtah.org, who first documented this online, Matthew suffered complications at birth which left him blind and mostly paralyzed for all of his 10.5 years, but, according to his obituary, couldn’t touch his spirit:

And then it shall come to pass, that the spirits of those who” are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and “from all care, and sorrow

Peacefully in his sleep on Sunday, February 21, 1999, our cherished son, brother and friend, Matthew Stanford Robison was received into a state of happiness, and began his rest from troubles, care, and sorrow in the arms of his Savior and.friend Jesus Christ

Matthew was a joy and inspiration to all who were privileged to know him. He was a testament to the supreme divinity of the soul and an embodiment of the completeness our spirits yearn for. The godliness of his soul inspired, influenced and blessed all who knew him. He came into this world as a .miracle and left this world as a miracle

Born with severe earthly disabilities on September 23, 1988 in Salt Lake City to Johanna,(Anneke) Dame Robison and Ernest Parker Robison. At birth Matthew’s life expectancy was anticipated to be only hours long. However, fortitude, strength, and endurance, combined with the power of God allowed Matthew to live ten and one half years enveloped in the love of his family and friends. His family was privileged to spend time with him here upon earth, to learn from his courage and marvel at his constant joy and happiness in the face of struggle. His family will be eternally changed by his presence and temporally changed by his passing. His presence inspired all those who knew him. He opened their hearts as well as their eyes.

This headstone was designed by Matthew’s family to make his grave a place of happiness,springing from the thought that he was now released from the physical limitations that had defined so much of his life.

In addition to the headstone, Matthew’s family also created a foundation dedicated to assisting folks with disabilities, ensuring that their son’s memory would live on in positive and good, beyond the happiness of his memorial marker.

Lovely, and special.

It might suprise you, given my post about the tattoo preservation service, but I’ve also said that this scenario (child loss) would also be the one circumstance under which I would get a tattoo.

Spending money and getting inked, way outside my usual M.O.­­but for the depths of love a mama has for her kiddos, not outside the realm of understandable (even for a frugal gal like me!)

BTDT Cremation Wisdom

ashes

The internet is constantly full of advice, it seems. Blogs and tweets and articles written by a variety of folks, from experts to duffers (and me!) covering nearly every topic ad nauseum–and funeral and deathcare issues are no different.

The same old ideas get recycled, reblogged, reposted, sometimes it seems by folks who might write about coupons today, funeral issues tomorrow, and Iggy Azalea the next day–with very little true value added in to the recycled content, all in the hopes of increasing click-throughs and pageviews and ad revenue. (At the moment, it appears we’re due for a fresh revisiting of the eco-pod burial idea, which is super sleek and modern-looking, but fairly awful natural burial practice, truth be told–it does make for a pretty, eye-catching graphic to repost on Facebook/Twitter and bring in traffic though, does it not?!)

This recent article on Modern Loss was a breath of fresh air as far as that goes. Way beyond the usual generic ‘how to scatter ashes 101’ trope, author Tre Miller Rodriguez offered her first-person, real-life, hard-won wisdom, gained over 5 years of experiences in spreading her husband’s ashes in The 9 Things No One Tells You About Scattering Ashes.

Among the more intriguing, sensible, and refreshingly unique suggestions she offers:

There will be bones. When I unscrewed the urn containing Alberto’s ashes, I expected a small box of soft campfire ash. I encountered a plastic bag with 6 pounds of coarse sand and sharp bone fragments. Not sure if anything prepares you to see someone you love reduced to a bag of cement mix, but the knowledge that cremated remains look nothing like ashes is a starting point.

One-time only? On the Fourth of July 2009, I didn’t realize that spreading Alberto’s ashes around the world would become my grief ritual — yet I instinctively took only a few tablespoons of him to the lake. Ask yourself if this should be a one-and-done ceremony? If you move to a new city, would it be meaningful to scatter ashes nearby? Would another family member want to keep some for herself? If your answer to any of these questions is “I don’t know” or “maybe,” don’t release all the ashes.

A good friend + a Ziploc bag. If you decide to scatter only a portion of the ashes now, ask a close friend who isn’t squeamish to come over before you transfer ashes into a sealable plastic bag. The reality of what you are doing may trigger strong emotions, so it’s smart to have a pal who can either take over the transfer or support you through the process.

Flower power. If you’re releasing ash into a body of water, buy or pick fresh flowers to release in tandem. This enables you to visually follow the ash flow and makes the ceremony slightly less melancholy. De-stem the flowers in advance and place them in a sealable bag with a wet paper towel.

Sticky. Ash sticks to skin, and when your hands are covered in your loved one’s ashes, wiping them on your jeans might feel a tad disrespectful. If you’re releasing ashes somewhere without easy access to water, bring a bottle of water and dry paper towels for clean-up afterward.

I’d love for you go and check out the rest of the insights she gained over years of sharing her husband’s ashes with the world; more importantly, I hope her personal sharing makes you think, and maybe spurs ideas for you and your plans.

Do we need to talk, or maybe change (or create) YOUR plan?

The Right to Die

Assisted suicide.  Death with dignity.  Physician-assisted suicide.  Compassionate choices.

No matter the language you choose to describe it, the point is the same–given a terminal diagnosis, the right to end your life on your own terms, with medical help, when you decide.  It’s highly controversial, to say the least, but is gaining traction across North America, and other areas of the world.

For most of the United States, the options for control at end of life are severly limited. In mid-September 2015, Californians joined the residents of Washington, Oregon, and Vermont as those who may possibly be able to take control of their end-of-life options.  The California Senate passed the End of Life Option Act, which allows for physicians to assist patients in ending their lives with medication, peacefully, once certain criteria were met.  As of this writing, it’s unclear if the governor of California will sign the bill or not, but even passage of the bill through the Senate marks a first, and possibly a sea change in how Californians will be able to control their final options.  Edit 10/8: Governor Jerry Brown signed this legislation on October 5, 2015.

The video below shows an actual example of how the assisted-suicide final process works in Oregon:

(warning: actual footage, may be intense or upsetting)

Globally, the options are equally split by country.  The Netherlands and Switzerland lead Europe with options for terminal (or in Dutch cases, not even fully terminal) patients who want to exert control over their own end of life.   According to The Guardian, which details the work of one end-of-life clinic in The Netherlands,

Under (the Dutch) law, doctors may perform euthanasia on anyone with “unbearable suffering”. This goes beyond terminal illness to include somatic illnesses without an identifiable end, dementia, mental illnesses and the belief that meaningful life is completed, and illnesses for which there is no available and suitable treatment. This permits life to be ended after intensive interviewing and assessment, as well as the approval of a doctor outside the process.

According to the chart below, snipped from this interactive graphic, the attitudes toward assisted suicide vary across Europe much as they do in the US.

Euthenasia EU

At this point, assisted suicide is legal in a greater proportion of EU countries than US states, but most Europeans are still stuck with the same lack-of-autonomy choices that most Americans are–if you want the right to control your own end-of-life and die on your own terms given certain conditions, it’s likely you’ll have to travel and/or break the law to do so.

Much like Europe, the state of assisted suicide legislation varies greatly across North America.  In the US:

Death with Dignity Around the U.S.

From Death With Dignity

Death with Dignity Legend

Elsewhere across North America, Canada recently joined Switzerland and The Netherlands in legalizing doctor-assisted suicide nationwide, while Mexico has embraced a person’s right to choose to discontinue treatment, but nothing more active.

Outside Europe and North America, the legal choices become far less clear, and options far less supported:

Legality of euthanasia.svg
Legality of euthanasia” by Michael Jester Licensed under CC0 via Commons.

Euthenasia global

Clearly, at this time, locations where a person has the right to choose her ending if necessary are few and far between, leading a vast majority of those who suffer (and those who love them) to either not-legal actions or dubious options such as suicide tourism, or possibly leaving behind established life and support systems to reside in places where they can have legal options.

I find this lack of, this restricting of options to be criminal, and downright evil to folks who are already under stress and suffering.  Assisted suicide, when put into action with proper, well-thought-out legal protections (as these rules are by and large constructed) harms no one.  It ends a life, yes, but by choice, for rational, well-tested, and measured reasons.

I very much believe in a person’s right to choose, even to choose how they die in these cases.  And I am encouraged by the groundswell evident on Twitter, in social media, in TED talks, and across the planet, of folks working to make choices available to those who need them.

I don’t ever want to have to face that decision for myself, but I do know I want it to be there, available and legal, if I do.

What about you?  What do you believe about end-of-life choices as they pertain to a person’s right to end her life?