Have you had THE TALK with your family? Not the birds and the bees, but the other flying kind – where you grow your own angel wings. You know, where you discuss your own demise with those you spend your life loving and supporting. For many, this discussion is much harder than any other they have had and sometimes it is so hard that it gets ignored or brushed aside until it’s too late and the words never get spoken aloud.
A recent conversation with my sons went something like this – “Boys, do you both know my wishes when I die?” Youngest son responds with, “Yeah, after you are cremated and your ashes mixed with Alex’s, you are going to have a jar party until I join you and then we will have a HUGE jar party!” Eldest son replied with, “Sure, you want to be cremated and have your ashes mixed with Alex’s and sit on a shelf. But, I want my ashes put on a nuclear warhead and shot at the moon.”
At least you can see we chat about death in our home. Its not a taboo topic. My boys now know that following a conversation about death and dying, we are no more likely to get hit by the big bus than the family who hasn’t had a chat about the fascinating subject. Death is not a contagious infection that will strike you down after you have had a chat with your family about your final wishes. Death is a life event. It can be tragic, traumatic, sudden, expected, anticipated, welcomed, shunned, affect the aged, affect the young, happen in your sleep or when you are enjoying a nice cuppa watching your favourite tv show… Death is part of life and can happen to anyone at any time.
I am the only daughter out of 3 girls who asked our parents what their wishes were when they passed away. It seems that by asking our parents what they would like to wear when they leave this place or what belongings they would like to take with them, would inevitably, somehow cause my parents to suddenly go belly up! I know my Mum wants to be dressed in her favourite nightie with the mandatory hankie stuffed up her sleeve. She wants a picture of her dog, Harry, two favourite teddy bears and a little cushion that was her Mum’s to take the journey with her. I can’t see anything callous in finding out what someone’s final wishes are, and you never know where that conversation will lead to. Maybe to their own stories of bereavement or maybe fits of laughter at how they would like to be dressed to enter the other side.
Should we ask ourselves what our wishes would be if we were to die next week? Would that be less painful than letting those nearest and dearest share this part of our journey with us? Is it safer to write our wishes down instead of saying the “d” words out loud? Surely if we don’t say death, dead, dying it can’t possibly happen…. Sadly, so far, nobody has lived forever and I’m pretty sure many people have kept those words locked away from being uttered – just in case. Talk about death or don’t talk about death, it will still happen. My dream is that everyone will have a beautiful chat with their loved ones and make those final wishes known. There is no guarantee that they will be met, but with some pre-planning and discussion, you can ensure you have done all you can to have the send off you wished for.
I remember when I was pregnant 17 years ago and not reading any articles on miscarriage or stillbirth in the mountains of pregnancy and parenting literature as somehow, subconsciously, I might be inflicted if I even cast my eyes over the sad stories. It wasn’t until I did indeed suffer the tragedy of one of my twin sons being stillborn, that I poured through the pregnancy magazines to find any articles that my help me. The isolation around pregnancy loss is horrendous. If you put a face to pregnancy loss it becomes real and not just something you hear about.
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