It isn’t always easy preparing for the inevitable, but I have always tried to be prepared for things in life. We prepare for birthdays, holidays, we even pack lunches ahead of time. Some of us are last minute planners, but that always freaked me out.So with a new diagnosis of perhaps six months of life left, I am moving into high gear.
I planned my funeral mass about a month or so after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in April of 2016. Why leave that decision or task, if you prefer that term, to someone who is grieving? I picked readings with the help of my priest and told her what songs I preferred. My husband thought I was crazy. “Why are you in such a hurry?,” he wanted to know. Maybe it’s because I am more practical? I didn’t see any point in waiting? I know it is going to happen and sooner than I had ever imagined. We all die some time. Isn’t that what life is about? And besides, my husband has enough trouble finding his way in the prayer book already. And let’s be honest here; men don’t ask for directions, so why let a man direct my funeral?
I discovered a long time ago, when I attended a grief counseling session with my mother, that death is always hardest for those who are left behind. The dying usually realize their death is coming and find a way to accept it. My mother had lost a daughter, my sister, who was only 21 years of age, and then she lost her husband and rock, my father, in a construction accident ten years later when he was only 62. I saw the pain she went through even with her five other children around to help her through it all. I do not want to add to my husband’s grief by requiring that he sit down and prepare for a funeral during one of the worst times in his life.
I want my funeral to be a celebration of my life. I know that it is difficult for some people to talk about dying. It is even difficult for me at times, and the reason is the same. I might accept the fact that I am dying, but it’s painful to be witness to another person’s reaction to it. I know that I was shocked the first time hospice was suggested to me. All I could think of was SIX MONTHS left to live! It was worse than the day I received my diagnosis. Not a day goes by without the thought of a looming deadline. I sometimes feel as if I am still working and trying to make the midnight filing deadline for a patent application. There is always the chance that I could plateau and hang around longer, but no one can tell. ALS is not predictable like so many other diseases.
So just to forewarn you, I am going to prepare you for my inevitable end. I am going to be cremated. There will be no wake or viewing. I’m here now if you want a view. My funeral mass will be followed by the interment of my ashes on church property and a memorial service. It will be a trifecta of sorts. I want you to wear whatever you want and feel comfortable. Bring your noise makers, funny hats, or Mouse ears and be prepared to march on over to the tree near the pond. That is where I intend to have my ashes buried. Don’t be bashful or worry about what others will think. Tell them this noise, your outfit, and your happy attitude were my requests to y’all. See a tiger (that would be me) can change its stripes when it moves south.
Most importantly, feel welcome in my church because you truly are. God loves you no matter what. I may not always have practiced what I preach, but I believe in a loving and forgiving God.
So if you don’t get to visit me before I leave this earth, drop by the pond and throw in a line. You can join my husband in one of his favorite hobbies, fishing. I will be there too, waiting and watching for you under the tree. Say a prayer, share a memory, or pay it forward and do a good deed. Oh, and if you forget your fishing pole, there are some already there prepared for you.
,… for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.