Funerals can be a time for reflection

Funerals can be a time for reflection

I recently attended a celebration of life for an acquaintance. She was a lovely woman who lived a full life filled with family, close friends, travel, and lots of fun and adventure. 

She was also a very giving person. Her wish was for her friends to come and select things that had meaning to them from her possessions. Before and after her passing, her generosity to charitable organizations was remarkable. She made it a point of letting folks know, “You can’t take it with you.”

At the service, friends came to the podium to share stories of their deep friendship and times together. Her niece read from her aunt’s travel journals, detailing adventures from all over the world.

By all accounts this person led a good life, maybe even a great one.

Communication helps ensure end-of-life wishes are followed

Communication helps ensure end-of-life wishes are followed

If we lived and died in a perfect world, all our end-of-life wishes would be followed.

If we wanted extraordinary measures, where our doctors do everything possible to prevent our death, that would be done. If we wanted to simply remain as comfortable as possible until the end comes, that would be done.

But we are not in a perfect world, and too many people are taking their last breath without their wishes being followed.

For many of us, when we are creating a will or a trust, our attorney may ask us to do some advance care planning, like completing an advance directive and selecting a healthcare proxy.

Or we may have entered a hospital or a skilled nursing facility and are asked to complete these documents.

Chances are 

Trying to remember a life post-pandemic

Trying to remember a life post-pandemic

I’m hoping my cousin gets the healing she needs this month.

Almost a year after her brother David passed away, she is having a celebration of life for him.

I wrote about Janet in January 2020 in a column titled “A life is changed in the blink of an eye.” Janet had come to help her 60-year-old brother after his cataract surgery. While she was there he fell down the stairs, resulting in spinal cord, back and neck injuries.

Janet spent a good part of 2020 as a caregiver for her brother and her mother during the most challenging of times. After David spent months in a Boston hospital, Janet had him airlifted to a long-term care facility in Texas so they could be near one another.

She moved her mother there, too.

David died in August last year. 

Cleaning can help with stress

Cleaning can help with stress

My mother has become a cleaning and organizing machine. Ever since my father died she has been cleaning closets, purging files, organizing shelves and rearranging furniture.

The fact is, her home has always been immaculate. My sisters and I joke that we could eat off the floor.

For years my mother has systematically pared down her possessions by giving stuff to others, selling items at yard sales and donating to charity. And my mother’s organizational skills rival those of Martha Stewart.

So why this sudden extra energetic spurt of tidiness?

I think several things are at work (besides my mother).

Whether it is a conscious thing or not, I suspect that my mother is feeling a level of anxiety as a new widow. A spouse’s death can trigger stress.

After father’s death, bereavement leave becomes ‘believement’ leave

After father’s death, bereavement leave becomes ‘believement’ leave

My father passed away Jan. 23 after a long, brave battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 86. When he took his last breath, my mother and sister and his hospice aide were by his side.

Those of you who read my column may remember that I frequently wrote about my father and his journey. He was on hospice for six months. While his passing was expected, it was still a time when a myriad of emotions were running through our heads.

My other sister and I and our spouses flew home to New Hampshire the day after his death.

Our sister who lives locally was at my mother’s house when we arrived, as were her husband and their two children, who all work for the same employer.

It was probably one of the few times that three people all took the exact same bereavement leave.

When a loved one is on hospice, how does one prepare for the inevitable?

When a loved one is on hospice, how does one prepare for the inevitable?
It’s 2018 and I know I’ll have many great things to celebrate in the new year. However, I am fairly certain my father will not be around to celebrate 2019.


You see, my father’s been on hospice for six months.

I’m aware that the amount of time he has been on hospice is not directly related to the timing of his death. I keep reminding myself Art Buchwald lived for over a year after his initial hospice placement and wrote a book during that time.

It’s the other things that have been happening.

My father has lost his ability to stand or even move himself in bed. He’s incontinent. He sleeps almost all day long, and when he wakes, he is groggy and his eyes are closed.

Lessons from Mary

IMG-20120607-00041My mother-in-law passed away a few weeks ago. I’ve written about Mary in the past. You may remember that strong, stubborn Irish woman who depleted her savings caring for her Alzheimer’s-stricken husband, or the woman whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy and made a fresh start with some new friends and a few prized possessions in an assisted-living facility. Mary was 86 when she died after a brief illness and hospitalization. Her experience taught me a few things worth sharing. Some of your most precious belongings may be the easiest to lose.  In the transitions from assisted living to the hospital to skilled nursing, those facilities managed to lose Mary’s upper dentures, her glasses and her hearing aid. I’ve never been arrested or put in jail, but I wonder, if I was in jail, whether someone would inventory my personal belongings and keep all my possessions intact by storing them in a plastic bag. If I recall all the “Law and Order” episodes I’ve watched, the contents...

Make a resolution you won’t regret

small book picIt was Stephen Covey who said, “ Begin with the end in mind.” That got me to thinking. What regrets do people express as they near the end of life, and what actions can we take now so we don’t have similar regrets? In her book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying,” palliative care nurse Bonnie Ware shared the most common regrets she heard from her patients. With 2013 approaching, the regrets Ware identifies offer food for thought to those of us in the second half of life as we take yet another fresh stab at setting down our New Year’s resolutions. Below are the top regrets and resolutions to remedy them. Regret No. 1: The most common regret of all dealt with not having the courage to live an authentic life and having many long-held dreams go unfulfilled. Resolution: Assess yourself. Living an authentic life isn’t about chasing every dream we may have. It involves building self-awareness—of our values, strengths and personal motivations. Arrange your work or personal time (or...

Ending well

ALZHEIMERS CAREIn advance of California Healthcare Decisions Week, Oct. 23 to 29, Dr. Lanyard Dial, CEO and medical director of Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurses Association, has written this week’s The Other Side of 50 column. Unlike earlier generations, odds are that many of us will die a slow death, often mixed with periods of isolation and loss of personal dignity. Would this be your choice? Is there a way to end your life well? It is my belief that we have a choice to alter this path and find an alternative end to our life, an end that we choose. How? With the help of the medical professionals in Palliative Care and Hospice. The American healthcare system today is magnificent. We have access to many vaccinations, antibiotics and medications that can treat virtually any disease that afflicts us. We have superior techniques to provide surgical cures and treatments for many illnesses. We can transplant new organs into our bodies when ours are so diseased that they no longer work. We can...

The Many Dimensions of Loss and Grief

alzheimers-s2-woman-blinkingDuring this season’s first episode of TV’s “Dancing With the Stars,” actress Jennifer Grey surprised herself when she broke into tears upon hearing the song she and her partner would be dancing to. It was a song from the movie “Dirty Dancing,” which evoked strong memories of her friend and co-star Patrick Swayze, who died last year of complications from pancreatic cancer. Grey’s strong reaction, more than a year after her friend’s death, was normal. The song may have brought her back to a time when she and Swayze worked closely together on the film, allowing her to grieve the loss of her friend all over again.Almost everyone who’s lost someone they care for can describe a moment where a song, object or even a smell triggered a memory of the deceased and reignited feelings of loss and grief. As humans, our grief knows few boundaries. How well or long we knew the person cannot predict the intensity of our grief. We might grieve for someone we have known for a long time, such as a...