One of the most challenging aspects of going through an ordeal like a terminal disease is the impact it has on the ones you love. It is still the most gut wrenching part of the shit storm. Not to say the physical and emotional challenges on me are simple or should be underestimated, its just that I feel I can manage, or control or at least do the dance as it's my body and mind that I'm dealing with.
But when it comes to Tracey, the kids, the family and my friends, well I really cannot help them out much, and that is without a doubt one of the things that weighs on me the most.
And when I discuss it, everyone, to the person, says I shouldn't be carrying that stress. And of course I understand why they say it and what they are doing. But that doesn't take the stress away. So I do what I'm told and I try to get back to focussing on healing myself.
But what is easy, is to help with some of the bigger questions that are on Tracey's shoulders. We've been chugging through all the disability forms for the last two months and they are close. We've updated Wills, Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, Duty of Care and many other onerous projects. And yes, it's surreal. But the more your disassociate the idea that it means you are planning for death vs planning your death the better off you are. In fact, the more you get your affairs in order the more you have time for living. And that's the real success isn't it. To focus on living a good life.
But one bit of planning that is a bit more fluid was preparing for things like a funeral, or celebration of life plans. Ashes or burial. If ashes where are they spread? Where is the event and who attends. Is there more than one event - do we have a private family affair and a public affair?
There are so many questions that need not be guesses by the caregiver. These all add up alongside so many other things that need to be taking place like insurance, disability, signatories all the way to where are all your passwords.
The more you can relieve the caregiver of unknowns the more you can allow them to play alongside you whilst in the midst of this crazy adventure we call life. By talking about death and taxes you are actually giving your chance to live a better life together. Seems paradoxical but it's true, just ask the caregiver that has it seemingly all on their shoulders.
So about a month ago Tracey and I invited Dave and Blythe over for dinner.
A funeral planning dinner.
And since we are all living and we are all dying we figured we would help each other understand our own respective plans.
While the odds seem stacked in my favour that my plans are most imminent I cannot impress upon everyone that you are not promised tomorrow and none of us truly knows when the jig is up. It just seems like I'm up first (not to jinx the rest of you but I've been given a few signs).
So we made a list and everyone had to come to dinner with their thoughts on their own celebration of life event.
- Who is the celebration of life/ funeral for?
- What do they want or need?
- What celebration of life/ funerals have I been to that were impactful - and what elements made them impactful?
- Buried or cremated?
- Where do you want to be buried or cremated. If cremated where do the ashes get placed and by whom?
- Public viewing of body or closed casket? IF public what are you wearing?
- Do you want a public service, private small intimate service, no service etc.
- Where do you want this service to take place.
- Is there a reception after? And where?
- How many people? How do you invite people?
- If public ceremony is there a funeral procession to gravesite? Pallbearers?
- Who speaks at it. Who is the key speaker to lead the ceremony.
- Music and readings. Please list.
- Flowers? What kind?
- Dress attire?
- Is there somewhere you want people to make donations?
- Is there a pamphlet at ceremony? What is on it?
- How do you want people to be able to leave notes, thoughts or prayers? EG Book at ceremony or online.
- Any special activity like releasing of balloons or doves?
- IS there a video. Where are the photos?
The dinner was not morose, it was not maudlin and actually it was almost like any other dinner where you have smart people and you tackle world problems through discussion. It's just this time we came with a plan and we executed it well.
Of course everyone had their say, but there was nothing mistaking the fact that really, we were paying most attention to my plans. I hope the others got enough out of theirs to make sure they felt comfortable in knowing what their loved one wants and that they can execute if need be.
I certainly got the sense Tracey had significant relief that she now understands many of my wishes.
And just so you guys know, we will be repurposing Dave Kelly Live into Jim Button Lived. It will be a spectacular show - that's what I wished for, a show, not your typical celebration of life but a full production with many of the same trappings you see in Dave's show. Planning is underway...even though we are hopeful we don't have to book in the near future.
PS My friend Jennifer wrote this piece about our funeral party and other ideas - Allford: Planning your last party can give you piece of mind.
PPS I suggest everyone think about things like this. Think about it when you don't have to.