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Compassion

This word has been on my mind lately. Mostly because the world needs more of it. The people need more of it. The animals need more of it. The planet needs more of it.

As a part of my spiritual practice, I recite five principles every day. The one I end with is “Today, I treat myself and others with compassion.” I love the word compassion. It is a deeply moving word for me requiring me to be more than merely kind, but compassionate. So when I actually looked up the definition I was more than a little disappointed; “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of¬†others”.

I don’t know what I expected, but that wasn’t it. “Sympathetic pity”? I KNOW what compassion feels like for me, but I never took the time to define it. But I know ‘sympathetic pity’ wasn’t part of my definition.

How would you describe Compassion?

My definition would go something like this, “deeply felt care and concern for the wellbeing of others, in times of need.”

I debated even putting that last part in there because I think we all need compassion whether we are in the midst of a crisis or not. However, I think when not ‘in need’, kindness suffices. I think when one is in need they do need something more profound than simple kindness.

When I worked a full time 9-5 job, I had paid time off and I took it when I needed it. I took vacations regularly and stayed home when I was sick. But there were other days when I needed to just take a mental health day and I did that too. Now that I work from home, for myself, there is no paid time off. In addition, some of my work requires I be on call 24/7 for my death and dying clients. Add to that I LOVE what I do, it’s hard to really comprehend that I still need time off.

Running your own business- let alone three businesses- takes discipline and I have that in spades. So much so that I had to build in a ‘day off’ each week, but I may have been too late in doing that. Last week when I was feeling some kind of way and struck with severe back/shoulder/neck/arm pain it caught me off guard. I had worked virtually nonstop to get The Foul Mouthed Woman Podcast launched, AND get started on The Death Witch Podcast. Amidst that I was writing feverishly to complete a few Oracle Cards for the deck I’m co-creating. Everything I do is on the computer and this pain rendered me computer impotent. As I took some time to tend to the physical issue, it was clear to me that something emotionally was working it’s way up and out as well.

I decided to stop looking for a work around the pain and just surrender into it. I’ve taken sick days before when I’ve caught a virus or something. I’ve taken days off when I just felt I needed to take a break. This was different. This was compassionate care. I was taking a Compassionate Care day.

It was a sick day for my soul.

I tended to the wounds of my soul that were on the mend, as well as the physical knotting in my back. I watched movies that made me sob. I took walks. I took small excursions out in public as needed. I made nourishing food.

For four days.

The most important thing I did for those days though was to not feel guilt, or shame and not ‘should’ myself. Like I said, I have tons of discipline, and it would’ve been easy for me to tell myself that disregarding my regular schedule was breaking my commitments; But my most important commitment is to myself. I can no longer do what I did before, because ‘before’ wasn’t working. ‘Before’ was breaking me.

For 27 years I pushed passed my breaking points. I was taught certain rules about being a good employee and how business works. For 27 years I felt powerless, complying with directives without voicing dissension for fear of being fired. Until it made me sick. So sick that at 46 years old I felt 75 and could not fathom how I could go on another 30 years. I didn’t even know how I’d make it another 10.

I didn’t realize it was the job/career making me sick until I quit my job, moved to another state and got married. I procrastinated getting my social work license in the new state. The thought of starting all over in a new state in the same old career felt heavy. My husband put no rush on my finding work and so I settled into taking care of myself…really taking care of myself for the first time in a long time.

Simply moving seemed to give me some relief from my suffering, and with each day I felt a little better. I found new treatments, new care providers, new ways of eating, which all helped. But mostly it was finding myself that really started to heal my body. Moving away from what I ‘should’ do, towards what I ‘want’ to do, improved my health ten fold. It will be 7 years this summer and I feel better than I did 15 years ago. I still have a few issues that are left over, due to the extreme pressure I put myself under, but I have faith I’ll find the answers to those also.

What’s important now, I realize. Is to not adapt the same mindset in this new situation. Pushing myself so hard that I bring on physical immobility in order to get my own attention is simply using the same patriarchal business model in my own business. So, I’ve switched to four work days and one self-care day per week. The weekends are sort of a hodge podge of things depending on my husband’s schedule or if I am pressing a deadline. I have always been one to take a sick day, but the truth is I don’t get sick that often. So offering myself Compassionate Care days on a more regular basis, might better suit my bottom line.

Compassionate Care days have to go above and beyond normal Self-Care days. I have self care built into everyday; at least 1/5 hours, sometimes 3. So Compassionate Care days are going to be luxury self-care days. There’s going to be more treasure hunting, spa days, walks in nature and baths in the middle of the day.

I think we are all in need of compassion regardless of our current situations. Compassion doesn’t have to be reserved for ‘justified’ times of pain and suffering! I think treating one another and ourselves with deeply felt care and concern for our/their wellbeing across the board would serve the Greater Good and mend the world’s hearts.

Peace Be With You

Sacred Sundays

No doubt due to my Catholic upbringing, I hold Sundays as sacred even though I no longer subscribe to an organized religious dogma. In my youth, Sundays meant attending Sunday mass and getting Dunkin’ Donuts afterwards.

As a young wife and mother we made it family day and either went out for crepes or we brought them home. No matter the tradition, Sundays have always felt special. Like they were the one day of the week when All Possibilities were palpable.

Even as a college student at St. Teresa’s, in Winona, Minnesota it was a day to stay in pajamas, be cozy, and share with friends. We often took a walk around the lakes.

Sundays feel like clean slates.

Today, I reserve Sundays as Sacred Self-Care. There is no one particular tradition, other than I don’t work unless entirely inspired to do so. There’s no agenda on Sundays. What gets done, gets done. All the rest can wait until Monday.

Sundays are for resetting.

Monday through Saturday are work days. Whether it is working for your employer, your self, or keeping up with the household chores. Sundays should hold little to none of that. Sundays should be about fueling our souls. Connecting with our highest selves and recharging.

I find limiting my television watching on Sundays has spilled over into the week. Even ‘having it on in the background’ seems to take energy from the environment. Replacing that background noise with soothing new age music positively charges the air and nurtures the Spirit.

Reading books for leisure, and not work or research related, also is a nice activity for a Sunday. Especially those cold snowy Sundays, here in lower Michigan. I include in this category, pulling out old photo albums or scrapbooks and taking a stroll down memory lane. Double bonus points if you can find someone who will sit with you while you do it.

I work with Oracle Cards as well as other card decks and often do a reading for myself using one of my many decks. Journalling about each card, it’s message and how it pertains to my life is a very therapeutic use of a Sunday.

I rarely do small screens on Sundays. No computer. No internet. It is so freeing. No drama to get caught up in. No rabbit holes to go down. Just peace in my world.

I know it is Monday at the time of this posting, but perhaps you can think this week on how to make your Sundays more Sacred and let me know if it makes a difference next week!

Peace Be With You,

Jade

Why Throw A Living Memorial?

My husband turned 70 this week and the pre-Corona plan was to throw him an Honor Dinner (or Living Memorial) to celebrate his life. Now you might be asking what is the difference between an Honor Dinner and a birthday party. Quite simply it is the sentiment expressed.

Let’s think about a regular memorial for a minute. A loved one has died, the family is grieving, there are pictures of the loved one set out. At some point there is conversation beyond awkward condolences and people start to reminisce. People share stories of the first time they met the loved one, and they share what this person added to their life.

For me, during a loss, this last part has always been my favorite. My favorite because it is here my healing begins. The knowledge that my loved one was loved by others is reassuring, consoling and comforting. I often find myself wondering though, “did she know they felt this way about her?”

I come from an English, German, Irish and Croatian cultural background. Take a look at those again. Not a single solitary culture that is known for expressing emotion! Stoic x4. On top of that our people tend to die suddenly in car accidents or from sudden illness. We aren’t prone to long term illnesses. While that is a good thing, the drawback is there is no anticipatory grief period, no forewarning that death is around the corner. Which means there is little time to prepare and say goodbye. So many loving thoughts remain unsaid until after death. Although that is very healing for the grieving loved ones to hear, the true power of those loving words lay in sharing them with people while they are alive.

Because of my history with these sudden losses, I am one to not leave things unsaid. My friends and family are accustomed to it, but for new friends it takes some getting used to. It is for this reason that I love Living Memorials. Not just for those who know death is around the corner, but for anyone! It’s not something you do at every birthday, but it is good for those big numbers.

Due to CoVid we had to do my husband’s Living Memorial online. I created a Facebook group and instructed people to create a video expressing their sentiments, toast him, roast him or share memories/stories. The point was to express more than simple birthday wishes. I wanted this man to know exactly what he contributed to the lives of others. I wanted him to see the expression on their faces and hear the inflection of their voice; not just read words on a screen. Having it in a group rather than on his page would enable him to use it like a memory book he could refer back to frequently.

While not everyone was comfortable being extremely sentimental, we had quite a few contributors. The look on his face as he watched each video and read each post was priceless. There are no words to accurately describe it. If I had to, I would say it was a mixture of appreciation, love and pride. He was truly touched that anyone would take the time to do this.

In retrospect I think a slightly modified structure would have rendered a result closer to what I intended. I think asking people to share their favorite character trait of my husband, along with their birthday greetings would’ve been less intimidating for guests. I also think that had we been able to do it in our initial format – an honor dinner – with similar instruction, it would’ve been easier for people to really share some more sentiment.

My husband is filled with joy for the experience and that was truly my goal. I highly recommend this for anyone wanting to provide a meaningful celebration for a loved one’s birthday.

In the end it doesn’t matter if it is called a Birthday Party, a Living Memorial, an Honor Dinner or a Hoe Down. If it is making memories, sharing emotion and making people feel loved then it is part of the living well path and that path leads to dying well.

Peace Be With You,

Jade

Best Death Possible (part two) – A Daughter’s Mission

The Difference A Doula Makes

An experienced Death Doula is someone familiar with many faces of death. While death is universal in its presence, it is individual in its experience. In my situation, a Doula would’ve been outside the grief circle, someone who could hold space for me as I expended my energy fighting for my mother. He or she would be able to offer perspective and guidance to spark ideas like bringing my mom’s personal items into the hospital, taking pictures, and bringing in music. A Doula would’ve been grounding for me.

It all happened in a week; Tuesday to Tuesday. When my mom was admitted no one suspected she wouldn’t be coming home. It was too fast for any of us to catch up, we only had a week; but that week will be with me the rest of my life.

We think of Death Doulas, or End of Life Doulas or even hospice as being appropriate only when death is imminent. Our most important work, however, happens long before that time. I chose to refer to myself as a Sacred Attendant, simply because that is what it feels like to me – attending the Sacred. Acceptance of death needs to be woven throughout our lives. It is not a final chapter of our story, but more like a character in the background without the knowledge of its time of arrival, nor the circumstances of it. Conversations about death cannot be reserved for some imagined time in the future when death appears imminent. They also need to include more than just the ideal circumstances because that just isn’t probable. Weaving death positive awareness into things like birthday celebrations, traumatic events, or illness could help remedy experiences like ours.

Thing 6 I’d change is doing a death plan. That first night when she said was scared, I would’ve stayed at the hospital. I would’ve pulled out a notebook and written down all the things she would want at her funeral. I would write a letter she’d dictate to whomever she wanted. I would’ve asked what songs she wanted at the service and what readings she wanted. I would’ve updated her living will with Health Care Representative (Proxy) designation. I would’ve asked her important questions regarding what she wanted to leave behind for all of us. I wouldn’t have hesitated to discuss this because we didn’t think it was time.

As a result of my experience with my mother, and with so many others, I created LIFE’S Book, an opportunity to create a death plan and so much more. Completing something like this with my mother would’ve not only established her wishes, but it would’ve been a bonding time for us. It would’ve also provided some guidance for others who didn’t know what to say while visiting. My mother could’ve asked them to simply pick up the binder and pick a page.

The Gift Of Time

Working in hospice I saw the Gift of Time in action. In a death denying society, the Gift of Time is bestowed upon those who chose to acknowledge time for letting go and embrace it. Peace comes with the embracing of death. Understanding that it is no longer a time to fight against the disease or circumstance, but to fight for magic in the last days. It is here that the term ‘good death’ was coined. A death free from suffering and in the comfort of their own home or home-like environment, surrounded by friends and family.

However, there are so many other types of death happening at any given time, don’t they deserve magic too? People die in car accidents, from falls in their homes, from assaults, and from sudden illnesses like stroke or aneurysms. Where are the good deaths for these people? Where is the dying-specific emotional, spiritual, and soul support for these folks? And what of those who lie down to nap one day and never wake up? Where are the goodbyes for their families? Their last words? And what of those who live alone with no one to ‘surround’ their bedside and care for them in their own home? What of them? Where are their good deaths?

They say there are no do-overs in life, and yet I see Life as one big do-over. Every day I get the chance to do things differently than the day before. I learn from my past experiences, I do not view them as insufficient or lacking in any way. The things I wished to do differently led me right where I am today, offering my support to others to reduce these events, by having conversations earlier than ‘imminent’. By doing this differently, I am honoring my mother’s death.

I was just getting my feet wet in the local community network groups talking about dying and death and…

Then CoVid19 Hit

The deathbeds now are even more sterile and are missing most or all family and friends. Fear of death hangs in the air like grey clouds in the Michigan winter sky. Still there is no acknowledging it. No preparations. No magic moments within conversations. Not even while quarantined together have there been conversations about death wishes. There’s just been blaming, conspiracy theorizing and more denial.

What’s emerged is a grief crisis. Compounded complicated grief where before there would be straightforward grief. On top of losing loved ones, we are losing our traditions for grieving. No matter your spirituality, religion or culture every aspect of grieving has been affected. Everything from not being able to be at the bedside to hold a hand, to not being able to have a funeral, with a million things in between.

This results in bereavement counseling being more important than ever. A counselor or a group to hold space to offer comfort and support. There will be more turbulent feelings. More uneasiness. More anger. More regret.

We will shortly be coming upon the first death anniversaries and the grief crisis will hit people unexpectedly. How we honor those anniversaries will be most important and if we do it right, will spark new traditions by creating meaningful ritualistic ceremonies to honor that date. We can only hope that by the time the first of the death anniversaries from this pandemic time roll around that the pandemic has subsided enough to allow more ritualistic ceremonies.

This is something I am preparing. This is something most end of life consultants are preparing.

My Mission

Ask 100 people what their idea of a ‘good death’ is and statistics say that 80 of them will say ‘at home surrounded by family and friends’. Some might even choose a facility with a ‘home-like environment like a hospice house, surrounded by family and friends’. Perhaps because they don’t want their family to have to live in the place where they died, or maybe they do not wish to burden their loved ones with caring for them. Whatever the case most people will not say ‘in a hospital’ and yet that is where 60% of deaths take place.

Why?

Some of it is due to death phobia. The medical community, in particular, has a hard time considering death, as was evident with my mother’s team. They are taught that death is an enemy to fight against at all costs. That cost is too great however, when it robs people of precious time with loved ones.

My mission is to offer the ‘best death possible’ for everyone. None of us can change the circumstances surrounding our death or that of our loved one. However, within the scope of that circumstance we can offer the best death possible.

The best death possible means embracing the circumstances as they are and doing it ‘your way’. It doesn’t mean giving up, so much as it is giving in to the flow of life. I have had the privilege of witnessing many magical life-changing moments that took place at a bedside. I want to bring that to anyone who wants it.

Unlike a hospice referral, to employ a Death Doula there is no need for a terminal diagnosis and 6 months natural life expectancy prognosis. The decision rests solely with the individual or family to initiate at any time. It can be initiated years before the actual death, making preparations, having conversations, and creating legacies. This starts building a relationship with someone who is then familiar to you at the end of life, providing all that much more comfort.

Embracing a best death possible philosophy provides opportunity for patients and families of trauma victims the same Gift of Time as hospice patients and families. It offers the same post-death follow up and support as well. It offers something more than what has been offered to date. A Sacred Attendant or End of Life Doula isn’t meant to replace Chaplains or Social Workers, it is something additional that offers a broader blanket of comfort care to a patient and their families. The service isn’t paid for by insurance or Medicaid/Medicare, so it isn’t restricted by regulations for reimbursement. The Attendant is free to provide whatever non-medical service is right for the individual and the family unit, and to provide it as long as necessary. She or he is not limited to a ‘justified’ one hour visit once a week.

Think what peace of mind this service could be to a son who lives 1,000 miles away from his mother who has dementia and lives in a facility. That he can have someone trusted to be there as many times a week as he wants.

What comfort it could be to a daughter from out-of-town to have in-town support as she lovingly cares for her father in his home.

What clarity it could bring a family whose members all seem to be on different pages.

What a difference it would make in the hospital to have compassionate end of life support available to individuals with sudden illness or decline, or traumatic injury and their family units.

And what of this…what if hospitals offered this service to family units right now, BECAUSE of CoVid protocols and restrictions? Why not give families something to replace a small bit of what has been taken away? It’s the right thing to do.

The services of Death Doulas, End of Life Doulas, Sacred Attendants, etc… will be unique to the individuals that provide them. In overview terms, they provide non-medical support to clients and families. Specifically, they might make a well-timed phone call or text; Be a visitor who is comfortable sitting in silence; Ask just the right question at just the right time; Or offer a listening ear you are not afraid to bend. These are the tangibles every End of Life Doula (EOLD) might offer. The innumerous intangibles are impossible to list here though because they are less about doing and more about being.

Peace Be With You…And May You Be Peace

If you or anyone you know feels they would benefit from this service please speak up to your doctors, your medical team or locate your nearest End of Life Doula through the End of Life Collective https://collective.round.glass/End-of-Life/about or the National End Of Life Doula Alliance https://www.nedalliance.org/ or reach out to me personally at healingritesofpassage@gmail.com or via the contact form on this site.

Best Death Possible – Part One -A Mother’s Death

Today, December 13, 2020 is the fifteenth anniversary of my mother’s transition. Until this time I haven’t shared the details of my experience of her death.

There are so many things I would do differently, most are details that would matter only to me, however one thing I believe could’ve changed the outcome.

I want to say right off though, you can’t be a doula and be a daughter at the same time. You just can’t. There are family dynamics, emotions, fears, hopes, anticipatory grief, expectations, and underlying currents at work that you can’t, as a daughter, step out of enough to BE a doula. That said, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a great daughter, in attendance, advocating and emotionally supporting your mother, but I wasn’t that either.

I know this is long so I appreciate you even considering to read it all. It is not meant to be an all inclusive recount of the events, but rather a highlighted exploration of needless trauma. If I were to write it as an account of the experience there would be many many more details about the emotional and relational aspects.

Tuesday

It started on a Tuesday with a call that Mom was in the Emergency Department with difficulty breathing. I was at work and rushed over as soon as I could. I found her in a cubicle sized exam room when I arrived. She had her chemotherapy appointment a day or so before and said she just wasn’t feeling right and was having a hard time breathing.

When her cardiologist came in my mother introduced me like this, “Dr. Kramer, this is my daughter Judy. She hates chemo.” To which he replied, “Yes, it is nasty stuff.” He stated that Mom had congestive heart failure and they would be running additional tests.

The hospital was full, she would wait hours in that cubicle sized room until a patient room opened up. I was working a relatively new job as a therapist in a psychiatrist’s office, and had to return to work, but visited her between patients later in the day. I found her that time in a room that I would’ve sworn was a janitor’s closet earlier that day. It was set off by itself long past any other patient rooms, and as far away from any staff as you could get. We sat for a while and talked about what the doctors were saying and what tests were going to be done. She waited until I was halfway out the door, late for my next appointment, to say, “I’m afraid.” I replied, “I bet you are. This is scary.”

Thing 1 I would change. I would’ve turned around and stayed with her. It turns out the patient I was late to see had cancelled and it was not the policy of the office to call and let therapists know when scheduled appointments cancel. My last appointment of the day was a no show. So, yes, I would’ve stayed with her. I would’ve explored that fear more. I would’ve been a great daughter who was attentive, present and emotionally supportive.

Wednesday

When I returned on Wednesday I found her in a different room wearing a rebreather mask. She was worried about the Christmas cookies she had committed to baking for the hospice she volunteered for. The same hospice I worked for just months before starting my new job. She wanted me to call the volunteer director and let her know the cookies wouldn’t be done.

At this point the diagnosis changed to add pneumonia to the congestive heart failure. I remember seeing the x-ray of her lungs…It looked as if they were wearing woolen sweaters. Where there should be clear darkness, there was fuzzy white. They started her on antibiotics.

Thursday

When I returned Thursday she was on a different type of mask. Her breathing was no better. Her lungs were no better. I knew from my years of working as a hospice social worker that chemo compromises the immune system and that if she was not responding to the antibiotics in 24 hours it was not good. I emailed my Aunt because my father was not ready to call the family in for visiting. My Aunt was not only my father’s sister, but she was my mother’s best friend since long before they were married. There was no way I wasn’t going to tell her what I knew.

By Thursday night the medical staff was out of options. The pulmonologist wanted to do a bronchoscopy to get a biopsy of her lungs to see what kind of infection it was so they could target the treatment. The problem is that after the bronchoscopy she would need to be on a ventilator for an undetermined amount of time. This is something my mother was adamantly opposed to.

Ten years prior she completed a Living Will specifically declining artificial life support. As we discussed the treatment options around her bed she spoke as loudly as she could through that mask that she did not want to be on a ventilator. However, she was ignored. My father is a very intimidating man and overrode her decision; insisting the doctor do the test. Later on, when I would bring up the Living Will Mom signed to attempt to advocate for her, he jumped up, towered over me and yelled, ‘WHAT piece of paper?’

When everyone left the room my mother again reiterated to me that she did not want to be put on a ventilator. We talked about it awhile. I encouraged her to talk to her husband, again, but she wouldn’t. So, I walked her through a process to get her to a place of peace about being on a ventilator short term, if it meant possibly finding an answer. She made me go to her house to bake up the cookie dough she had started.

During this whole time I needed to also be present for my twelve-year old daughter. I had pulled her out of school twice during this time because I wanted her to have every option to have last memories with my mother. Every day my mother got worse and every day I thought would be her last. I was also keeping my mother’s older sister informed who was living in a nursing home. I continued to keep my other aunt informed, as well.

Friday

Friday morning they did the bronchoscopy and by Friday night she looked like a blown-up balloon. During the bronchoscopy they pierced her lung and she was filling up with air. Bloody drainage came from the chest tube and she was indeed on that ventilator. Her doctor went out of town so we were left with an associate. The results of the bronchoscopy were inconclusive so an infectious disease doctor was brought on to determine whether or not to try fungicides or to start her on penicillin, which she was allergic to.

Saturday

By Saturday she was in multi-system organ failure and treatment options were still being discussed with my family. I was hearing lab results familiar to me from my work in hospice. I started to push the medical team about these things and realistic expectations. She agreed to be on the ventilator for a period of three days. She was only continuing to decline since. I failed at keeping her off the ventilator; I would not fail at keeping my promise that it would be short term. That night my father decided that my mother should not be left alone and he wanted me to stay at the hospital.

During the night my mother woke up on the ventilator and wanted my sister, my father and my husband there. She didn’t want to talk until they were there. She wanted my sister and I to get along. She wanted us to watch over our father. She wanted him to stop smoking. She wanted my husband to take care of me. And she wanted to say I love you to all of us.

The staff set me up in a room far away from my mother’s to stay. I wasn’t allowed to sleep in a cot or recliner next to her bed. What was the point of staying if not in her room? It was all too much for me by that time. I called my Aunt in the middle of the night because I just didn’t have anyone else to talk me off the ledge I was on. I’ll never forget the comforting voice on the other end of the phone saying, “Hold on. I’ll be there tomorrow” as I sobbed for the first time.

Sunday

Sunday morning came and there had been further decline. We as a family started talking about removing her from the ventilator, only to find out there was no supporting documentation in her chart by the doctors. Apparently what they were finally saying to us and to the nurses was not what they were documenting. So, again one by one we had conversations with each doctor about her condition and the reality of needing to let her go. By Sunday night we were talking about taking her off the ventilator Monday.

Monday

Monday came and there were faith-based hoops to jump through to get the approval to take her off the ventilator. This was the first time we spoke with anyone from palliative care and I only remember it being one brief conversation. Her doctor returned from out of town and was surprised that she had not recovered. He made his first call to her oncologist who said, “Sometimes patients respond to chemo like this. Give her steroids.” This was an emotionally devastating blow because she had been in multi-system organ failure for days now. Her cardiologist said she would likely not wake up and would need long term care placement if she did recover.

I mean it when I say my mother would rather be dead than be institutionalized living on a ventilator.

Thing 2 I’d change. I would’ve called her oncologist myself the first day she was admitted. She kept saying that she felt fine after chemo but then a day later she didn’t. I wrongly assumed that the medical team INCLUDED the oncologist. I do believe this one thing could’ve changed her outcome.

By Monday afternoon we had everything in place. I was prepared to let her go that afternoon and then I was told that it would be another day. My father wanted to wait until Tuesday.

I lost it.

I have never sobbed so hard, either before or since, as I did then. It was all so exhausting and now to make my mother suffer another day seemed cruel. I just kept yelling, ‘she deserves better than this.’ I understand – now, outside my own grief – that he needed a day to prepare. He had not been able to grasp reality days before as I had been. I had been fighting for days to end her suffering, while he’d been fighting to keep her here.

Tuesday

Tuesday morning came with yet another blow. My mother’s case now needed to be sent to the Ethics committee for approval to remove her from the vent. Why at each turn there was another hurdle someone didn’t foresee I did not understand. It was a Catholic hospital and they didn’t explain in advance the protocol to remove the tubes once in place. I was livid and unable to get face time with the bureaucrats causing my anger.

Tuesday afternoon the tubes were removed. My sister, my father and I were around her bed with our hands on some part of her when she exhaled for the last time, some 45 minutes after the machine was turned off.

I Did The Best I Could

Thing 3 I’d change. Her transition was sterile and un-ceremonial. Aside from the blanket I’d bought her for Christmas and gave her early, there were no personal effects. Nothing of my mother was in her death. I’d have music playing. She loved music. Johnny Mathis maybe or Ann Murray. Maybe Johnny Cash. Or maybe some Boots Randolph. I would’ve brought crystals to surround her. Anointing oils to bless her journey and thank her body for its service. I would’ve chosen a poem or a prayer to recite with all of her family present, not just the three of us.

Thing 4 I’d change, though not necessarily in order of importance…I’d take pictures of her in the hospital. Especially before the ventilator. She would’ve hated it though – no make up, hair unkempt, face mask pressed into her cheeks. As it is though I don’t know when the last picture of my mother was taken.

Despite these things I’d change, I know I did my best, but I still don’t feel it was good enough. We all did the very best we could within a system fraught with death denial. My energy had been used up on decoding the things that weren’t being said, forcing them into the air where my family could pluck them at their ready, then begging for the right things to be done.

This is why thing 5 I’d change, not in order of priority, is hiring a death doula (or better yet I wish the hospital had this service.) This one change would’ve made all the other changes for me. A Death Doula, a Transitions Doula, an End of Life Doula, an End of Life Specialist, a Sacred Attendant…whatever name they go by they offer the same thing – holding dedicated sacred space specific to the transition of loss and supporting the best death possible.

(Continued in Part Two- A Daughter’s Hope)

Attachment To Things Has Gotten A Bad Rap

In a country where hoarding is an epidemic, while simultaneously Marie Kondo has become a celebrity for downsizing, it’s important to understand the reason behind our attachment to possessions and the therapeutic value ‘things’ have in grieving.

“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” ūüé∂ a popular lyric and a popular trend when I was growing up in the midwest. Beautiful, architectural, and historical buildings bulldozed, then replaced with parking lots and structures. The trend remains the same, it’s just a different kind of parking structure today…storage facilities.

When people’s attachment to things is such that they require separate housing for their belongings we have to start asking, “why?” It isn’t enough to just roll our eyes and say, ‘commercialism’, or ‘materialism’, or ‘gluttony’, as so often I’ve heard.

When people live in homes that have become unhealthy and deteriorated because attachment to their possessions has become unmanageable, we have do to more than give it a name and slap it into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders.

In a culture that denies death’s inevitability; that has sterilized death and dying care, by allocating it to institutions rather than family members; and has created fantasy worlds on television bombarding people with false notions and images of impossible idyllic life standards, it’s no wonder “things” become important.

Things don’t die and they don’t abandon us.

It’s no secret we don’t do death well in this society, but what is a secret is why we feel so attached to family heirlooms, gifts and mementos, sometimes to the expense of our wellbeing.

It’s more than just ‘sentimentality’. Objects hold energy. Our possessions (things we have owned) hold our energy very strongly because it was constantly bathed in our energy.

However, even store-bought gifts hold the energy of the giver even though it might not have been in their possession for very long. The intent or ‘thought’ behind the gift lives in the material of the gift.

Individuals who have strong attachments to people, and have suffered great loss, will often have stronger attachments to possessions than those who do not have strong attachments to people and/or have not suffered great losses. Holding onto belongings is a coping mechanism designed to exert some control over loss. The theory is ‘I love things because things don’t abandon me. They can’t die and they can’t walk out on me.’ Which is why then those individuals will be devastated if something of value gets broken or stolen (material versions of death and walking out).

When someone dies there are many who rush to get rid of the loved one’s possessions believing the things are painful reminders. They mistakenly believe getting rid of the belongings quickly will facilitate faster grieving. The truth could actually be the exact opposite. Holding onto belongings that hold the energy of the loved one keeps their individual signature vibration within daily life. This enables the relationship to reconfigure. Spoiler alert, we don’t have to stop having relationships with people just because they die.

We don’t stop loving someone when they transition to the next life, whatever you believe that life looks like. Love is energy and energy never dies. Our love just has to have a new focus of attention. Hence why some find visiting gravesites to be important and necessary. A focus. A new physical focus of the relationship.

Others choose to embrace personal belongings of the loved one. A healthy attachment to those things would be someone choosing several items of the person’s belongings to incorporate into daily life. An appropriate amount would be what can easily fold into one’s current living situation and serve a purpose. Serving a purpose is largely defined by the individual. A box of personal belongings that is taken out once every other year and brings comfort does indeed serve a purpose. The rest of the belongings then are easily, even joyfully shared with family, friends and the community by way of donations.

In extreme contrast, an unhealthy attachment to those things, of course, would be the inability to release any of the items to new homes and having the possessions overrun the home. The items cannot be incorporated into daily life, because there is no living actually happening when the possessions…well…take possession of the person. Excessive items stored, whether hoarded in a residence or locked away in a storage facility, are possessions in possession of people. Not a single item can be connected with or appreciated on a daily basis because it is not accessible. So you are paying rent for things to take up space in your life that are not adding quality to your life.

Having the deceased person’s belongings allows us to hold onto a physical representation of that relationship, yes, but it also allows us to continue a relationship with our loved one in a new way. Every time we wear that sweatshirt, we first feel the energy of our loved one that still lives in the material. When we feel that energy we are connecting with it, just as we did when they were alive. Then we might recall some memories. We feel again how we felt when they were alive – even if just for a moment. And whether we know it or not, we are making new memories with that person because we are doing new things while thinking of them.

This is so important. Not just right after a death, but for years going forward. After death, love and grief are forever intertwined. Grief doesn’t end. There is no finish line we magically cross. There is a difference between grieving and grief.

Grieving is the expression of the loss we feel for someone who has recently died. Grief is the cloak that love wears post death. Grieving ends. Grief does not.

Grieving is also called mourning. Its symptoms include but are not limited to sobbing, anger, depression, sadness, lethargy, insomnia, rage, and outbursts. Its cause is the loss of something/someone we love. Grief is loving someone who is no longer on this planet. Grief is the missing of someone. Therefore, we don’t grieve or mourn forever, but we feel grief forever. Many people do not understand this distinction and feel guilt when grieving ebbs, having associated their intense grieving with their intense love. Grieving is connected to the intensity of the loss of the love, not the intensity of the love itself.

When we incorporate loved one’s items into our daily life we are honoring them and ourselves. Instead of the empty place setting at the holiday table, we can focus on feeling their energy present at the table in the dishes they used or passed down to us. Someone’s clothes can be worn to provide us with a hug just when we need one. Clothes can also be made into blankets to promote that safe feeling someone gave us. Personal items can be pinned onto, sewn into or carried for a wedding ceremony as way to connect with them on that special day. Jewelry, as well as dishes, can be passed down for generations ensuring that the energy of the ancestors is prevalent and available for generations to come.

In recognizing the importance of personal items we have to understand our reaction then when these things wear out, get broken or lost. In many ways it is like losing that loved one all over again. We made the transfer from loving this person in body, to loving them in spirit with these items as a tangible tool. It can feel like losing that person all over again when these valued items are lost or broken.

It helps to remember that nothing is ever really lost or broken though. Broken dishes can be made into beautiful mosaic garden stones or even jewelry. Once more we need to make a transition from one physical focus to another. When we lose something of a loved one then it is a little harder to adjust, but it’s still a matter of perspective. You can view it as ‘the loss of one thing, makes room for another.’ Or it can be the impetus for you to take an action you otherwise wouldn’t have. Maybe acquire something of your own that holds as much energy for you. The situations are too numerous to go into in a simple blog post, but I hope you get the idea.

In the crystal gems world we believe that when a stone is lost it is either going on vacation for a much needed rest for a job well done, or it was needed elsewhere by someone else. A broken gem implies that someone you love needs the energy of that stone, thus it broke in order to be in two places at one time (or three or four). Something that shatters into pieces that are rendered unusable is considered to have served its purpose and is returned to the earth where it began. Quite often those pieces find themselves in potted plants where they still continue to be of service by nurturing the plant.

In this society we are too quick to judge…ourselves as well as our neighbors. We are too quick to judge someone’s home as cluttered simply because they have ‘more things’ than we choose to. If the things bring them pleasure and are easily incorporated into their living, then they have just the right amount of things for them. Instead of judging ask them about those things and the stories they hold. When they die you might just find that old cuckoo clock they spent the afternoon telling you about brings you comfort too…

When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them

When¬†someone shows you¬†who they are, believe them the first time.¬†People¬†know themselves much better than¬†you¬†do. That’s why it’s important to stop expecting them to be something other than who they are. –¬†Maya Angelou.

This short little quote helped me understand the ‘how’ of relationships. I kept expecting people to be true to their words, because I was true to mine. That’s just not how it goes with everyone. Many people mean what they say, when they say it, but give not much thought after that. So I was torn between believing what people said (because as an empath I didn’t feel they were lying) but then disheartened when they would yet again disappoint me.

I expected them to be who they wanted to be, rather than who they were.

When people show you who they are, believe them.

I have a rule of three and it applies in many areas of my life. But one I am most adamant about is giving people three chances. Sometimes mistakes are made. Anyone can have a misstep or poor judgment once. So long as it isn’t a deal breaker that gets foofed off as a “one off-er”. A freebie, so to speak. A brief conversation might be had, or it might just be dismissed.

The second time that thing shows up, it’s a deeper conversation and it’s noted, in a file, in a drawer, in a cabinet, in my brain. The third time that thing happens, I’m done. Like D O N E done. Three times? That’s a pattern my friend. You have just showed me who you are. Now, granted there are certain things that if done once they never get the chance to do a second time, but those things are big deal breakers and go without saying.

I think largely this quote is good guidance for people caught up in co-dependent relationships, with the repeating loop of “I’ll do better”, doesn’t do better, “sorry I didn’t do better.” However, sometimes this lesson isn’t about ending a relationship. It might be about ending your expectations.

People show us all the time who they are and we immediately discern whether or not they are someone we want to get to know better. Sometimes it is easy to decide, ‘no, I don’t feel compatible with that person’ and you move on. Other times though the relationship has no red flags or warning signs. It’s a perfectly good relationship. You might laugh together. Do activities or projects together, but maybe at some point you feel like you aren’t getting out of the relationship what you put into it.

Or maybe you just feel like you aren’t getting what you need from it…

That’s what I want to talk about today.

It is perfectly OK for you to know that you ‘deserve’ what you want from a relationship, be it romantic or friendship. The thing is just because YOU deserve it, doesn’t mean the person you want it from OWES it to you.

Even if you extend to them the same respect, effort or affection. Just because you give it doesn’t mean the other person is obligated to return it. That’s when you need to adjust your expectations to fit the relationship you are actually in, rather than the one you imagined yourself to be in.

People can only offer you what they have to give. No more. And if they offer you less, well then they are telling you something aren’t they? Either they are not capable or they are not willing. Either way, they are not optimal as partners in the relationship you thought you were creating. If you were intending to create a romantic or business relationship, it is probably advisable to end that versus just changing your expectations. However, if your intention was to create a friendship then you don’t have to end it, just change your expectations.

Friendships come in many shades. There are best friends who are confidantes where the bond runs deep. There are social friends who like to go out and do things socially without much deep conversation. There are work friends you never see outside of the workplace. And a hundred other kinds of friends in between. If you were going for ‘best friend’ and you aren’t getting back what you put in, don’t scrap the friendship, just adjust your expectations. Recognize what the other person is offering you and manage your expectations to that degree.

Now let’s end on a more positive note.

When people show you who they are, believe them.

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard people say, in one way or another, “I have trust issues”, or “People have to earn my trust.” I’m here to tell you that last one is backwards and the first one says more about you than anyone else.

We don’t ‘trust’ others, we trust ourselves to put our energies into the right places. Listening for who people show themselves to be is key in that. How many times did you ‘trust’ someone, get disappointed and then look back and see the warning signs you overlooked/didn’t listen to? They were there. You know they were. You just wanted what you imagined the relationship could be so much that you chose to be deaf and blind. If you think you have trust issues, it’s because you really have imagination issues.

You imagined a future relationship and confused that with present time. You overlooked and excused behavior because you didn’t want to give up the ‘potential’ the relationship has for the future. This is imagination at its finest. You IMAGINE that the relationship will become something else in the future and therefore trade your present for it and are surprised when the results are not what you imagined. It’s kind of like wanting to bake a cake, but don’t find all the ingredients for it in your pantry, so you put together what you have, stick it in the oven and expect it to still come out like cake.

People do not earn our trust. To really be authentic in relationships you need to have the approach of trusting someone until/unless they give you a reason not to – in other words, ‘until they show you who they are’ (or who they are not.)

When people show you themselves as honest, trustworthy, attentive and understanding, believe them. Don’t make them jump through hoops to prove themselves. Enjoy the even exchange relationship and don’t overthink it. However, do pay attention when if they begin showing you themselves to NOT be those things!

Too often we get hooked into someone because they intoxicate us. Maybe they are exciting. We feel a little small sometimes but they make us feel bigger. Maybe they give us really high-highs through their antics or their humor. But with those highs or feeling big we can feel the opposite sometimes. A relationship with those kind of ‘mood swings’ is not healthy.

Oh yes, every relationship has highs and lows over time, but the highs should outweigh the lows. No one should ever try to make you feel small – ever. This is not someone to be in partnership with at all. In a healthy relationship there should be more stability than highs. You can’t be high all the time. If you are seeking highs because you feel ‘bored’ in stability then it says quite a bit about you and your interpersonal dynamics, and some internal work is in order.

Remember, you are also showing people who you – and they will believe you, too.

Peace Be With You,

Jade

Ask The Death Witch – Seeing Dead People

A worried daughter asks, “What do we do when my mom hallucinates? She keeps seeing her dead father.”

These are not hallucinations.

There is a reason it is called ‘crossing over’ when people die. In every way it is a crossing over to ‘the other side’. In the process of crossing over they have one foot in both worlds, thus they have eyes that see into the other dimension.

So, your loved one isn’t hallucinating seeing her dead father, he has come to visit her.

When transitioned loved ones come to visit, it’s part of what I call ‘pre-admission visits’, to prepare the one who is readying to die. Just like live visitors come to see her and offer support so too, do transitioned visitors. It’s no different. We have transitioned loved ones around us all the time, most of us just can’t see them.

This also happens in reverse, where she will visit on the other side. You might notice times when she seems so close to death, non-responsive, breathing shallow, but then will wake up out of it. You might be at her bedside thinking she is about to take her last breath and then she is clear as a bell. During the times of intermittent non-responsiveness I envision the dying take little tours around the next dimension…getting the lay of the land, if you will.

Although there is a literal moment of death, one minute when someone is alive in this world then not alive in it the next, not all death happens like a light switch. Sudden death, of course, is just like that. Traumatic events, like car accidents, or sudden events like strokes or heart attacks, can take the living to dead in the blink of an eye.

But dying is actually a transition that takes place over weeks, and sometimes months, not just days. Think of dying, like taking off your shoe. There is a process your foot takes to get out of the shoe. Your whole foot is not in the shoe one moment and then totally out of it the next. No. First your heel is released, then the arch of your foot and then lastly the ball of your foot and then your toes. At one point your foot is half in and half out of your shoe. The Soul leaving the body operates in much the same manner.

It is believed even in sudden death that our transitioned loved ones are there to escort us to whatever happens next. Some will dismiss this as a result of brain chemistry and the release of biological chemicals. Ok, but by that logic then aren’t all of our life experiences dictated by the release of chemicals like dopamine, endorphins and hormones? Does that make those experiences any less?

Now to answer the actual question of what to do…

Support her experience. Ask what they are saying to her, what they are doing, or what she thinks they want. If she says they want her to go with them, then tell her it’s ok for her to go. If she says she isn’t ready, then ask her why? What does she need to get ready?

You will find valuable information in these conversations. You might discover an underlying worry that you can help appease. You might find out she is waiting for a long distance relative to get there. You might find she has other unfinished business you can help her complete.

The time you have with someone at the end of their life’s journey is a gift. Please don’t waste it by being afraid to have conversations. There is no greater time to have heart to heart conversations, because their last words will stay with you forever.

Peace Be With You,

Jade

Interfaith Ministry

“I’m not religious. I’m spiritual.”

I have heard this more often than not in the past 15 years. It is how I’ve described my own Faith system for more than 30 years now.

And it is exactly why my compulsion to serve in a spiritual role led me to my recent induction as a First Responder Chaplain.

When my daughter was born 27 years ago, I sought a church that would meet my/our spiritual needs in a broader capacity. I enjoyed the ritual and community of church, but not the dogma. My search went on for years as I researched and explored many different faith systems.

Along the way, one thing became clear – spirituality resonated with me, religion did not.

I grew up in a very Roman Catholic household. My mother’s brother was a missionary priest stationed in the Amazon and their two sisters were School Sisters of Notre Dame nuns. My uncle would say mass in our living room when he was home. It is here that I developed my love of ritual, I’m sure of it.

I went to a Women’s Catholic liberal arts college where we attended mass either in the lounge in our pajamas or in the beautiful chapel and full of dancing, singing and poetry.

After college I attempted to find that same sort of relaxed, inclusive, interactive atmosphere, to no avail. Studying other religions, philosophies and ways of life not only enabled me to expand my knowledge and understanding, it also enabled me to collect rituals, beliefs and practices that resonated as True for me.

I learned how similar all religions are in their core teachings, and how much of what we know as organized religion was appropriated from nature religions and Eastern philosophies.

For my own spiritual fulfillment I found solace in the nature religions with added appreciation of Eastern Philosophies.

In 2003, I became an ordained Minister in the Universal Life Church, because I wanted to offer an alternative officiant for anyone identifying as ‘spiritual, not religious’.

Since that time I have offered what I refer to now as Interfaith Ministry. While the dictionary defines ‘Interfaith’ as “relating to or between different religions or¬†members¬†of different religions,” I do not. That same dictionary defines faith as follows: noun¬†-1¬†complete trust or confidence in¬†someone¬†or something -2¬†strong belief in¬†God¬†or¬†in¬†the¬†doctrines¬†of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension¬†rather¬†than¬†proof.

I believe Faith goes beyond the boundaries of religion.

People can have faith in one another, in God, in the Universe, in Jesus, in a Creator, in Yahweh, in Muhammad, in Buddha, in Life, and in themselves. Faith is not reserved for those who find solace in religion. Faith is what we call the system of beliefs a person holds. Period. Thus, interfaith is relating to or between different faith systems that may or may not include religion.

So, it is here that I landed in order to offer spiritual support to any person in need. I can as easily sit and read the Bible to a non-practicing Catholic woman, as I can read The Good Book to a Humanist, as I can read from A Course In Miracles for New Age believers, as I can read poetry and prose for those more secularly minded.

More than a few times I’ve been in a situation where chaplaincy services were offered to me and I regretted accepting them. I am not a fan of having other people’s beliefs imposed upon me, but that is exactly what happened. There was no room in the conversation for exploration and true processing of my feelings and emotions in that time of suffering. I found no comfort in their words and their beliefs. I found myself shutting down and saying whatever I could to get them to leave the room as quickly as possible.

So I set out to provide actual interfaith, nonjudgemental spiritual support sans agenda. I wanted to provide what I couldn’t seem to receive from anywhere. Perhaps it is my social work training, or maybe it’s my innate nature, but in my mind spiritual support is supposed to provide comfort. Comfort does not come by disputing a person’s belief system, unless the belief system itself is creating the suffering.

I have attempted to serve in a more official spiritual capacity for many years, however most roles are Christian based and require Theological training (heavily Christian) which I have not chosen to pursue. So, when I met a woman who talked about just becoming a First Responder Chaplain my ears perked up and I enrolled into the very next training.

The training was definitely geared towards Christianity but because of it’s 501(c) status, they could not refuse training to a non-Christian. In addition, I received no ill treatment because of my different belief. In fact, it was clear that they respected my different faith system and saw where I could provide support that they were uncomfortable providing. Win/Win. That said, I will tell you there were things that I felt were imposing and I let that be known.

My intention is to serve those who

  1. have followed a solo spiritual path
  2. are at a crossroads, in celebration or in crisis
  3. in need of guidance, support or ritual within their framework of faith
  4. and find themselves without a spiritual advisor.

To provide this service to, and in conjunction with, our First Responders to make death notifications or offer support in times of trauma is a privilege I do not take lightly. Not everyone who receives bad news or is involved somehow in a traumatic event will be comforted by traditional means.

I do not think that my perspective is unique in this, although I do think it is a well kept secret. To some extent there is still backlash experienced when one is vocal about not being Christian, so those who have alternative faith systems tend to be silent about it. However, more and more I have been privy to officiating rites of passage for groups with mixed faith systems and the experience is more beautiful than you can imagine.

The key to live harmoniously is to focus on what unites us, not on what separates and divides us. To close ourselves off from others because on the surface they appear to be ‘different’ doesn’t serve our highest good. Our highest good is served by creating brotherhoods and sisterhoods; by forging unimaginable alliances; by not investing ourselves in being right, but in being happy.

Happy people don’t do harm. They don’t seek to judge. They don’t seek to impost their beliefs on another. They don’t seek opportunities to convert others to their way of thinking and believing. Happy people recognize the happy in others. Happy comes in all shapes and sizes.

Chaplaincy, Spiritual Guidance or whatever else you name it, needs to be about one thing…holding the Space for Light to enter. That Light might be the breath in your body, the love in your heart, the God within you or the gods above you. It is not for me to dictate that to anyone. I take it as my solemn responsibility to hold a mirror up to reflect and magnify the Light in each person I serve, in whatever space I’m in, in whatever way brings comfort to those around me.

Peace Be With You

What The Lack Of End Of Life Planning Really Costs

I want to share a deeply personal story.

At the time of his death my daughter’s father and I had been divorced for four years.

During our 23 year marriage, because of my career, we always had open discussions about dying and death. We were open with our daughter about death, never shielding or protecting her, but instead arming her with coping tools and information.

Those conversations included directives regarding limited aggressive treatment, as well as life ceremonies and general care wishes. We had watched people fair poorly with chemotherapy and that was specifically something he had voiced against.

I had remarried, while at the time of diagnosis Allen remained single, but dating. We remained friends and much of my belongings remained in storage at the home we had once shared, including our daughter’s childhood memorabilia.

He was an avid ‘health nut’, so when he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in November of 2013 we were all stunned. Almost immediately he got engaged, with a projected date a year out.

He started chemotherapy treatment and began to decline swiftly. His fianc√© kept his phone and isolated him from his family as much as she could, but needed the oldest daughter’s cooperation to sign for medical procedures when he was no longer able to due to the development of a rare secondary cancer of the spinal fluid that spread to his brain causing seizures and cognitive impairment.

My daughter was called to the hospital in April, 2016, because the outlook was not good. I ended up meeting her there the next day. We stayed a few days and had some good conversations with him despite his disorientation and intermittent incoherence. It was clear he was tired; like tired with a capital T. My daughter and step-daughter (who had been estranged most of her life) discussed their wishes for their father and decided on a plan of care, because it seemed as if his fiancé was not vested in his health, but his wealth.

Two hours after we left his eldest called to state that the fiance¬ī presented her with a family consent to marry. She called my daughter and they decided not to give consent. If their father had intended to marry, he would have done so urgently upon receiving a likely terminal diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer. He would not have put it off for a year.

Apparently, however the eldest daughter was persuaded to give consent after receiving ‘assurance’ that a Will was made. She did not ask to see the Will, if she had she would’ve immediately recognized her father’s signature had been forged, badly.

In addition, to forging the Will, the woman obtained Power of Attorney during the same time period. She changed the beneficiary on his retirement accounts. She got a judge to marry them with the familial signed consent form. Lastly, four days before he died, while he was in a coma, she used her POA to add her name to the deed of his residence.

The memorial service was arranged with little to no input from the daughters. It was not at all representative of the man we knew. Calls and texts to the widow went unanswered. I was never able to retrieve my belongings or that of my daughter. My daughter was not given the opportunity to receive any of her father’s belongings and despite being named in the forged Will, did not receive anything, though her sister and her cousin did.

All of his belongings were reportedly sold or given to unnamed individuals, not family, including a car that he promised to our daughter.

Turns out you can do a lot of illegal things, including forging a will, and unless someone has money to contest it, you get away with it.

This widow lived off the insurance and pension for a year and in that year married someone else.

Granted this is an extreme case, colored by the shadiness of a true gold-digger, but it could have gone so differently had he completed an end of life plan ahead of time.

These are just some of the things he had control over at one point:

  • completing a Last Will And Testament when of sound mind
  • establishing Health Care Directives including Medical Power of Attorney and Living Will
  • creating emotional estate planning documents
  • complete an end of life plan
  • pre-planning Celebration of Life ceremony
  • completing legacy projects

Regarding end of life planning, many people take the position, “I have time” or “I don’t care, I’ll be dead.” It is important to note how our decisions, and especially our lack of decision making, can wreak havoc on our loved ones and complicate their grief.