Not Just Funerals

You know I’m passionate about getting you to consider and document your deathcare choices, but being prepared for your end of life is so much more than that!

And in that vein, as January finishes:  have you done your advanced directives and medical decisions paperwork yet?

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This super-helpful graphic reminder is from our friends at PlanBeyond.  Click to visit their blog post and find out more general information about the necessities mentioned in the graphic, including the POLST form (not yet adopted in TX, but still a great idea!).

For Texas-specific legal documents related to advanced directives and end of life care, the always fabulous Funeral Consumers Alliance of Central Texas has a handy compilation of legal forms to make it super convenient (and leave you no good excuse to not get it done!)

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Image courtesy stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

NOW IT’S YOUR MOVE.  Time to get started, and you can check off one of your New Year’s resolutions (maybe the only one you keep?!).

Need help?  Call me, or email me–I do that!

And in case you missed it, here’s an omnibus of links to help you DIY to get your personal world ready in 2016.

What If You Could Attend Your Own Funeral?

I’ve always said that, if I were sick with a terminal illness and had an acknowledged limited time, Baskin Robbins would know my name, and would have my double-scoop peanut butter and chocolate sugar cone cued up when they saw my face.

(Mortality is easier to think about if you don’t have to sweat the calories, it seems.)

 

But on a serious note: I do often ponder what I’d do if I were faced with being declared terminal.  Travel? Become a recluse?  Indulge my sweet tooth?  Go out in a blaze, with wild hair and tattoos? Live out my days just the same as always?

One thing I have considered, and that I’ve talked to my clients about as well, is hosting my own funeral while I’m still alive.  I think it would be a wonderful experience, to gather everyone who might otherwise come to a funeral together for a period of love and remembrances and farewells about me that I’d get to participate in, with the added bonus of freeing those people from expensive and disruptive last-minute travel, black clothes, somber tears, and missed opportunities for us to say the important final things to each other.

If I were to do it, I’d want to set up an open house, one I could plan far enough out to make it easy and convenient to travel to, at a time that wouldn’t disrupt workdays or important events or anything, and add in elements of hospitality–food, drinks, music, photography, remembrance trinkets.    I don’t think I would choose to go all the way to having an actual funeral/church service, although I’ve said for a 20 years that Holden Evening Prayer would make the perfect funeral service for me, so if the party was at night, vespers would fit right in! But I would want to leave plenty of time for a moment with each attendee, to make sure I had said everything that needed to be said, and time for general enjoyment as well.

 

I was reminded of this plan recently when I read about a terminally ill woman from Kentucky doing just this when her stage IV pancreatic cancer appeared to be encroaching on her life.

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Photo from richmondregister.com

 

In late 2015, Donna Cook hosted a gathering in her house that brought friends and family to see her and celebrate her.  An article in her local paper describes how friends stopped by Donna’s living funeral to share stories with her and each other.   The presence of Cook’s extended family allowed pictures, hugs, and laughter with cousins, grandkids, and other relatives together, which Donna was still present to witness and participate in.

The center of attention herself told the newspaper that the effort was definitely worth it.

For the coming days, Cook plans to spend the rest of her life with close family and friends, knowing she has made peace, shared love and enjoyed company with so many.

“This has really been something special, and I am blessed to have seen everyone,” Cook said.

 

Sounds wonderful, in a lemonade out of lemons way, doesn’t it?    Definitely something to consider on the trail of ‘a good ending’.

 

Are you curious about planning your own living funeral?  Or maybe a more traditional one?  I can help!  Leave a comment here, or reach out at http://www.marileeparsons.com

 

New Technology Bestows the Gift of Time

You might know that I have a pregnancy loss in my past–a loss, but thankfully a very early, very simple miscarriage,  where I only had a few weeks of knowing I was pregnant before I was no longer, just a handful of days to bond with that very wanted child before she was gone.   It still affected me deeply, and can bring me to tears nearly 20 years later, though.

It’s every pregnant mama’s worst nightmare and largest fear, though, to make it all the way through the pregnancy, and be faced with a stillbirth–9 months of buildup and anticipation and possibly hours of labor, only to have to say “hello” and “goodbye” in the same breath.   Most families in this moment are struck numb and immobile by the sudden unexpected turn of events, having never wanted to consider or plan for such an end.   Thankfully, many L&D staff as well as private organizations (Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep) come in to fill the gap for these suddenly grieving parents, and coordinate the family’s brief time with their stillborn child to include pictures and memory markers that will help the parents in their grief once their baby is gone.

The challenge of time, in these situations, is that a stillborn baby’s body begins to go through many physiological changes, leaving the baby’s parents typically limited to only hours to acclimate to the loss, say hello (and goodbye), bring family in to introduce the baby, kiss and touch and rock, and compress a lifetime of caring into less than a day.

I can’t imagine anything as heartbreaking, nor how anyone can possibly stay sane through something that swings so mercurially from joy to grief, and demands you limit yourself to a few hours for the entire process.

I’m so very encouraged by this product which is designed to gently and unobtrusively extend the time bereaved parents can spend with a stillborn baby–if there ever was grace in technology, surely this is it!

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Cuddle Cot is a system designed to be hidden in a Moses basket which helps cool the stillborn’s body and retard the physiological changes which dictate the the window for the baby’s time with family.

 

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Photos:   mom.me

 

 

 

Clearly this gift of time is something desperately desired by many bereaved new parents, and strikes a chord with families who have experienced loss.  As evidenced by this article, and the Cuddle Cot Initiative Facebook page, many parents and previously bereaved parents are endowing hospitals around the country with Cuddle Cot technology in memory of their own stillborn and newborn losses.

 

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I love that so many folks are there preparing the space for what could easily be a family’s worst day ever, making grief work a community gift.

If End Of Life Planning is on Your 2016 Resolutions List

First:  HOORAY!   Good for you.

And:   I hope you make that one the resolution that sticks.

Doing your end of life planning–from writing a will, to advanced directives, organ donation, and living will paperwork, and on through final disposition wishes and estate settling–can be daunting and off-putting. (Witness the vast majority of people in the US who just have not done it, and worse, the ones who die without the essential documents in place…)   Certainly, in our world today, no one really likes to think about death and dying and all that go along with it, although, as one of my favorite planning gurus, Gail Rubin, likes to say,

Just as talking about sex won’t make you pregnant, talking about funerals won’t make you dead

 

But the good news is, unlike a diet or an exercise resolution, this process is one-and-done.   Set aside a weekend, or a night a week, or a retreat to a hotel, put your head down, and just get it done, legal-like, down to the notaries and such as necessary.    The good news at the end of your effort is that you’re done!   You can and should always review and make changes as desired, but as long as what you wrote is still your desire, that’s one resolution you can permanently claim to have accomplished!

There are so many good resources out there to aid you in doing most of it yourself, a selection of which are listed below to get you started.

(NOTE: There are some parts, particularly legal stuff like wills and guardianship preparation, that you will want to make sure are iron-clad and well planned, so always err on the side of getting excellent expert help and advise if you have questions!)

End of Life and Advance Directives 

  • Advance Directive/Medical POA forms (Texas) this Austin FCA affiliate has collected all the necessary Texas forms.  (Some will need notarization)
  • Living Wills and other EOL Medical Forms (by State)  NOLO.com has gathered an informative page with links to information for all US states, plus more.
  • Get Your S*#t Together This website, birthed out of  a woman’s experiences after the sudden death of her husband, contains a helpful master checklist that will guide you through what information you should have considered and stored to be truly ‘ready’ to deal with an unexpected death.

Considerations Around Wills

  • Thoughts about Choosing an Executor  This thoughtful posting approaches the discussion from the “should I accept being an executor?” side, but the considerations for choosing who you will assign for yourself are very similar.
  • Your Digital Legacy   Who will sort out the online world you leave behind?   Definitely something to consider, with the help of the information here.

Funeral Planning and Guidance

  • My Wonderful Life: a comprehensive experience that draws out and documents all your wishes around funeral and planning for after you’ve died.  Allows for designation of an ‘angel’ to access your portfolio when needed
  • Everplans: similar digital archive of important wishes and information around the individual’s end of life, funeral, and estate wishes.
  • Consider creating an online scrapbook or memorial site to curate through your life and then leave behind;  you can even leave videos and messages to loved ones to be delivered once you’re gone.  Some sites include:

 

No matter which sites or services you choose to use, or even if  you just do it in a document or a notebook, thinking through, documenting, and communicating your wishes is essential.    There are aspects which will require official help (legal, notary, medical personnel) and you may find that to be a blocker, but please, push through and get it done.  The time you invest now will save your loved ones much more time and grief later, and is one of the best gifts you can give.

If you’re more the personal-trainer kind, and want help with the discussions and documentation–I do that, especially around your end of life wishes.  I’m well versed in your local Austin options, and can help you document choices that reflect your values and desires;  I also have many trusted sources to refer you to, from lawyers to funeral directors and final resting places, and will help you navigate the discussions (with a touch of “just get it done” personal-trainer tough love thrown in…)

Questions?  Need help knowing where to start?  Want someone to talk to about it?  Call me (512.763.7185) or drop me a note, and we’ll talk!