Strange Conversations

I was just reading Megan Sayer’s post where she talks about all the great things that are happening in her life – and she misses her dad. He died recently and she talks about what to do with his ashes. This reminded me of the interesting conversation hubby and I had the other day.

We have been making end-of-life plans. When I developed symptoms of FM, he was pretty sure I was going to die and I feared losing my work and identity and ability to live life fully. That is when we first realized that life can change really fast – and since that time we have lost many family members and friends. We realize how precarious our life is, as we know it, and (gulp) we realize that we could lose each other. We don’t like thinking about that because we have been best friends for well over 50 years. But we also know it will happen whether we think about it or not so we might as well think about it – and talk about it.

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What we decided is that we will die in our sleep, at the same time, holding hands. Plan made, now we don’t have to think about it any more. Our one daughter said she hopes we die in a plane wreck on our way home from a fabulous vacation in some exoctic and romantic place. She doesn’t want us to die, of course, but she knows us and she is right – that would be a good option. I always like to have plan A and plan B and plan C if possible.

Last December hubby insisted we get our will rewritten so I humored him and now I’m glad we did. Our family configuration has changed so we needed to be more specific about what we want done with any money that may be left after we live the rest of our life with wild abandon. The last will was focused on how our children would be provided for while still minors; they are all pushing 50 now. In December we did some other legal things and still have a couple to do but that isn’t the focus of this post.

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Last week we accomplished a different type of goal – we filled out advanced directives for health care. We talked about and agreed on what medical treatment we want at our current age. That was pretty easy because it can be changed as we age. Then I was ready to check the box that would give the directive to use my body for medical research. I am supportive of higher education and I know there is a shortage of cadavers. (Sorry of this makes you squeamish but I am trained as a social worker and am not afraid to talk about the non-pretty side of life – or death in this case.)

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I got this look from hubby – you know the one. The “are you really sure you want to do that” look. Then I realized that behind the look was a need to have my body or my ashes to bury. Going to the cemetery to take care of his parents’ graves is very important to him. We had already talked about being cremated and having our ashes buried in the same plot, together, close to each other. And I knew if I donated my body to science he wouldn’t get anything back. Isn’t it strange how we can sometimes decide on two outcomes that are incompatible?

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We talked about it. I told him I recognized how important it would be for him to have my ashes and to bury them in his family plot. Of course I will do the same with his ashes because I know it is what he wants. Having a grave to go to in order to grieve isn’t important to me. He doesn’t feel there would be anything left, I would be totally gone, if he couldn’t bury me. I keep memories and photos and things that remind me of the people I have lost. We think differently and our needs are different.

Forget-me-nots

Forget-me-nots

We came to an agreement – a part of it was that I made him promise not to make me promise to take wreaths and flowers to his grave. He looked a bit stunned, maybe wounded, but I’m holding firm on that one.

Maybe I’ll take them for the first year so I won’t feel guilty.

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17 Comments »

    • Thanks, Jill. I will check this out because we had heard body parts were cremated in mass and the ashes buried in common graves. I think I’ll contact MSU’s medical school to see what local practices are. I always like win/win solutions.

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  1. As a nurse, I’m with you Pat. I have no problem talking about these things, while my husband will change the subject every time with a joke. I need to get my AD done, and strongly suggest my husband do the same. Thanks for bringing this topic up. Very important one.

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    • The hardest part of the AD was arranging for witnesses to sign it. We went out for supper with friends so they could verify that we were of sound mind with their signatures. They weren’t sure about the sound mind part. 🙂

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  2. Good to have things like this talked through and each other aware of one wishes .
    Yet to have the talk although I do throw out the odd future requests about arrangements . Probably long overdue .

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  3. Well done, and I imagine you feel all the better for having had this discussion. I do like the bit where you say “after we live the rest of our life with wild abandon”….go for it!

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    • We do feel better knowing what each other wants. We still have a few more tasks to take care of, like paying for our funerals. We have been talking about what we want done but haven’t put the plans to paper. Thanks for commenting.

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  4. Ugh those conversations are no fun, but they are good ones to have. Husband and I need to act on the similar conversations we’ve shared.
    On an entirely unrelated note, that park (?) with the pink trees/shrubs is gorgeous!

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  5. Very nice post and lovely photos! I like the way you ended the post with the photo of the Forget-Me-Nots, as if to say, I may be settling my affairs, but please do not forget me when I am gone, or that I was here, that I loved and lived. Nice touch. :O)

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  6. I think it is a wonderful conversation to have with a loved one. Why do we seem to be so adverse to speaking of death, particularly in this country?

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