Preparing to Die . . . The Final Season

Preparing to Die…  The Final Season

 

My friend, Elinor is a deep thinker.  She doesn’t mind admitting she hit the big “7-0” last year, which is a milestone. Out of the blue one day she said to me: “I just had a bolt of realization! I am preparing to die!!”  Sounds pretty morbid, right?

But being in the funeral business, we are surrounded with death and dying and helping those who are grieving.  When we can, we encourage people to pre-pay and pre-plan their funeral to save themselves money and extra stress when the time comes.  This is all good and something we strongly believe in –

but no, that is not where this blog is going.

What Elinor said got me to thinking about the seasons of most of our lives.

 

First, we are children.  We are gaining knowledge rapidly from an educational standpoint.  We are learning how to relate in our small circle of family and close friends.  We branch out to preschool, through high school to higher learning, and continue our growth and development.  We make lots of stupid mistakes during this phase, but we aren’t aware of too many of them.

Next comes career and creating a family.  We work hard to accumulate worldly goods and start building a career.   We save for college for our children and weddings and hopefully set aside funds towards retirement.  We take vacations and travel a little.  We buy stuff we don’t need and are usually wasteful.  We develop more of our character during this time, because we also have to impart it to our children.  We make more stupid mistakes, but now we are aware of them.

After that comes the season of the empty nest, the grandchildren phase, and all the fun that brings.  If one is fortunate, self-evaluation and life evaluation are stronger in this phase.  We are becoming quite comfortable with who we are.   We really would like to tell people what we have learned from our mistakes, but usually no one listens.

This brings us to the last season:  Preparing to die!

 

Here are some components I want to consider . . .

  • Financial:  I will want to be sure that my will or trust and accounts have been evaluated and will stand scrutiny when I am no longer here to defend or change them.  My vested powers are how I want them.
  • Stuff:  I want to be sure that I give away the important things to those I intend them for.  I want to see the smiles while I am still here.   I want the pictures marked so no one has to say “Who is that? Or, “How are we related?” I want to divest myself of the unimportant so that others won’t have to handle it when I am gone.
  • Bucket List:  My bucket list will contain the places I have not visited that I still yearn to see.  But what about overcoming some of my remaining fears?  What about the unread books, unheard music, giving of myself in service to others once the working years are completed? As I check some off, I have no doubt I will add more.
  • Relationships:  I will want to be sure, that inasmuch as possible I mend any broken relationships.  I want to contemplate everyone in my close immediate world.  If I have knowingly hurt anyone, I will want to be quick to ask for forgiveness.  I will want to be sure those I love now exactly how I feel and nothing is left unsaid or undone.

I will say “I love you” a lot.

 

  • Health:  I will want to pay the closest attention I ever have to what I eat, how I rest, my exercise regimen, good mental health and a positive attitude, taking care to fix what’s broken when I can.
  • Emotional:  The final phase of life will most certainly include some health issues I can’t fix.  It will include saying good-bye to friends and relatives who die before me.  I need to be able to face these things courageously.  I will need to be realistic about possible “sudden fears” of not knowing how to handle something in a weakened physical state or without those I have trusted and leaned on for years. I will need to stick together with my remaining friends and family and “be there” for each other.  I will need to come to a place of internal peace with my circumstances, regardless… period!
  • Spiritual:  The most important of all.  For me, personally, I need to know my relationship with God is in good standing and that things are fully settled according to my faith in Jesus Christ.

Finally, naturally being timid in certain areas, I would like to know that I can actually die bravely and with the certain knowledge that as I walk through “my own valley of the shadow of death”, I won’t fear the shadows.  You know, shadows are only present when there is a light source. I shall hopefully be focusing on My Light, not the shadow.  My Maker is pure light and if He is walking me across the valley, His light will always cast a shadow.

 

Until that day comes, I plan to be busy doing whatever the days holds.  I love the poem “Because I could not stop for Death” by Emily Dickenson:

“Because I could not stop for death..

He kindly stopped for me..

The Carriage held but just Ourselves..

And Immortality… “ Click the link to read it all.

 

A little serious?  Sure.  Morbid?  Nah, I don’t think so.  It is a reality that faces each of us and we do have to accomplish what the seasons set forth.  From birth to death, it is what it is.

 

What season are you in?  Are you making the most of it?  Each season is the building block for the next. Will you end up having the courage it takes for the final season?

Anne

About Anne

The youngest of 8, I was born in a tiny town in the Keeweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan in the late 40’s. My minister parents died 6 months apart around the time of my 5th birthday. My older siblings raised us in the family home until all were graduated except me. Gradually only the boys remained, so at the age of 10 I moved to other homes. My childhood was rich with experiences that sparked my young imagination. When I finally read the Anne of Green Gables series, I totally identified with Anne. I have just celebrated my 46th anniversary with my dear husband, Lou. Our daughter, April, 4 grandchildren and one great granddaughter bring our family a lot of joy and reasons to be thankful. I have worked at O’Connor Mortuary since 1996 where I handle the accounting. The Mortuary has become extended family and it is a source of satisfaction as a job I thoroughly enjoy. We attend the Village Church and that is another wonderful extended family, one who not only worships and learns together, but loves and prays for one another at the drop of a hat. We live in a retirement community and enjoy taking our two dogs, a Bernese Mountain Dog and little Cocker Spaniel, to Dana Point Harbor for Sunday jaunts. I absolutely love participating in the Mortuary Blog. I have found my voice! Thanks for following me.
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  • Anne,
    I love this post because truly, the last part we can & should try to apply to our lives no matter what season we are in. While I certainly haven’t learned (& never will finish learning) all the lessons God has in store for me, I can take the advice you give on how to properly prepare for the end of life and begin applying those values now. Especially the “saying I love you more” part. I want to practice saying & exhibiting that more in my actions & attitude.

    Thank you for writing such an inspiring, challenging, and freedom giving post – I say freedom because the idea of planning this kind of thing takes away some of the fear of it sneaking up. I love your perspective, thank you!

    • Molly
      I so enjoyed writing this post because it really made me think. When I actually saw it in print, with the picture you chose, I got misty and was so glad I took on the subject. I need to re-read it for myself often, I think. And yes, I find myself saying “I love you” more than I did before. Thank you for your comments and thank you for the picture. It was perfect!

  • Fred

    Anne, Great post. Thanks for your insightful message. I’m at a point, as in the movie “Fried Green Tomatos”, where Jessica Tandy says she’s “at the jumping off place”. Me too. I look at it as the last great adventure of life. To see the angels, and my Lord Jesus Christ. I’m ready. Fred

    • Oh Fred, how wonderful to have you take time to read my blog. Thank you! I am getting close to the jumping off place myself. Too bad the Father wouldn’t let you take one of your aircraft up. I know you would make a safe landing on the aircraft carrier called Heaven. Just don’t let the wings crease the beautiful gates of Pearl! It’s a soft stone, you know! Appreciated your post. Anne

  • Hi Anne –

    The season I am in is new parent land! I have been navigating through this mapless journey for the last year plus. I have most all my affairs in order, most! I am ready for my day, not that I want to go anytime soon, yet I do know that if my number comes up early my wife and son are covered. I love this season, everyday is a new adventure with a little one in my life. I wish I could freeze this moment and never move forward, yet time will not stop. I am looking forward to the next chapters in our life as parents. I am thankful for the deep insights you have and share! XO

    • Neil,
      And a wonderful parent you are. Nothing comes before your concern for your son and that is how it should be. Believe me, I don’t care how many books they write. The journey with our children is mapless. Loved the way you put that. I have a feeling you are taking full advantage of this season, which will surely put you on solid ground for the next and the next. XXOO

  • Jeannette Avellan

    Anne,
    Your message was profound and a very good perspective of life here on earth. We live life as we think it is best but as people we never really stop learning and our attitude makes a huge difference.

    Every day is a gift from God I think and it does not matter what season of life we are in. True we do like nice things while we are here but the material possesions are only temporary and the best is yet to come!! I always think it is best to tell your family that you love them, as you say in your blog too, because we really do not know when our Creator will call us and it is better to tell your loved ones to their face than in front of a tomb when it is too late!

    • Jeannette
      Thank you so much for taking time to read my post and comment. I do hope you might find my future posts worth your time as well. I agree with you. I know I never stop learning, because my attitude is that I can learn something new from each day, each friend, each encounter. You and I both appreciate nice and beautiful things. They are there in this world to enjoy, and yet the most important are the relationships. The “I love you’s” and the hugs. I will see you soon! Hugs, Anne

  • Kari Leslie

    Annie,
    Once again you have imparted such wisdom and peace to me. Thank you for giving us all a glimpse of you’re inner most thoughts, dreams, and desires. You have so much to share, I just want to gobble it all up!!

    Love you my friend,
    kari

    • Kari
      Thanks for your comments. It sounds like you are handling your season so well with moves, changes, both adult children and a child at home. Love you, too! Annie

  • C.L.(Chuck)Troupe

    I’m not sure about which “season” I’m in. Connie and I are well past the Empty Nest season, and the spiritual part was settled a long time ago. All but a very few of the people that I love the most have already passed onto that eternal season where I am waiting and ready to go. If I can express it as a “stage” rather than a season, maybe I could say that I am in what I am thinking of as the, “…my-one-way-ticket-is-bought-and-paid-for-and-my-bags-are-packed-and-I’m-just-waiting-for-my-ride…” stage.
    There is no way I have a “death wish” and there is no need for anyone to be concerned about me jumping off a bridge, or drinking a hemlock cocktail. I’m just saying that with the exception of my wife, my grandson and my best two friends in this world, my desire to be “over there” is growing greater than my desire to remain over here.

    • Chuck
      I love the way you expressed the stage you are in. You have a good attitude about the stage you are in because of the confidence you have in the future. I know you well enough to know you totally mean it. One thing is for sure. You’ll be singing here til you croak and you will be singing there for eternity! Family and friends are the pull that keeps us here as long as we can. They need us and we need them. Thanks so much for taking time to post.

  • Shayna Mallik

    Hi Anne,
    Wow, thank you again for a great post! The season I am entering into is moving out of my parents house and getting an apartment with my boyfriend. It is definitely a completely new season for me, as I have never lived outside of my parents home and the home I grew up in. I am excited for the next chapter in my life and it is nice that we are moving to a place near our families. We move at the end of October and we both realize initially it will be different, mainly for me. But I am lucky I found someone to be by my side thru my transition and who will always be there thru my life. Now my parents will finally be entering the season of the empty nest. Once I move out their children will be grown and out of the house. I know and see this is going to be hard on them, due to the fact that I am the last kid to leave. My mom is excited and loves Brad and can’t wait for us to start this chapter, my dad on the other hand is more questioning the decision and making sure it is what we both want, but in the end he is also happy for me. Thank you again for sharing you post, it is amazing how the season’s of our lives come and go. Love ya!

    Shayna

    • Shayna
      Thank so much for your comments. You are so young and really just past childhood and into the next stage of career and family. All of it is ahead of you. That is an exciting place to be. There will certainly be ups and downs, successes and failures, mistakes and triumphs. I wish you well as you make the journey from where you are to where I am (age-wise). Hugs, Anne

  • Lori

    Anne,
    After spending the last ten days tending to my grandmother, your post definitely hits home.
    The part that resonates most is mending broken relationships. At times, my grandmother and I have not spoken at all for weeks at a time. There were periods where I anticipated she could die with us not speaking.
    Instead God has given us the gift of reconciliation. I have seen how much she needs me and she has seen that I am there for her. Even though she may not remember the next day I was there, she feels my presence when I am with her.
    You and Elinor are such incredible role models to me. I can only hope to enter my next season with as much grace and love as the two of you.
    Love you!!
    Lori

    • Anne Collins

      Lori
      Thank you.
      You have such a special heart for people. I have no doubt that you will do well with the next season. My thoughts are with you and grandma as you are there for her. I am so thankful you and she have had the time of mending. We never know how we will be, should we live to 98. The mind can play tricks on us and make us think things that aren’t reality at any age. I can only imagine how it might be magnified in the 90’s when we are alone more with no strength to get our angst out physically so we take it out on those we love. Hours alone to sit and mentally build things up. Ugghh! Love you, Anne

  • Joan Petrime

    Anne, that was a moving blog. We know that our life is already planned by the BIG MAN , Jesus Christ!!! Let all hope that we live to our full potential and that along the way we can become a loving spouse, love and praise our children and grandchildren and if we are lucky enough great-grandchilren. May we turn out to be helpful, caring, and compassionate enough to care for our friends and other unfortunate people. Let’s hope that the Lord will always guide us to do what is right in all circumstances!!!

    • Anne Collins

      Joan
      Living to our full potential…that is it in a nutshell. Just when we think we can coast a little, something comes along to stretch us a little more, doesn’t it? I see so much of what you wrote in your life every day. Helpful, caring, compassionate and I would add thoughtful. Thank you for your friendship.

      And thanks for taking time to comment.
      Love, Anne

  • Esther

    Months before my precious husband’s arrival in heaven on May 7 ,2012, I was given a tune to 2 Cor. 4:16-18 which became our favorite verses and I quote, “Therefore we do not lose heart, though outwardly we’re wasting away. Yet inwardly, we are being renewed, day by day. For our light and momentary troubles, are achieving for us an eternal Glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For the things we see are temporary but the things unseen are eternal.”

    As I am quickly approaching my 80th birthday and my 12th year of semi invalidism, I feel I have taken care of “all the above” and my summons could be at any time. I have forgotten so much of what I learned in school, but part of the poem, ” Thanatopsis”, written by the first great American poet, William Cullen Bryant, is as fresh as the day I was required to learn it and I often quote it aloud to myself, when a friend or loved one dies. Here it is.

    “So live, that when thy summons comes to join that innumerable caravan which moves to that mysterious realm where each shall take his chamber in the silent halls of death; thou go not like the quarry slave at night, scourged to his dungeon, but sustained and soothed, like one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.”

    You have become the writer of the Anderson family, Anne, and a good one.

    Your sis,

    Esther

    • Anne Collins

      Esther,
      You were always an inspiration to me when you helped raise me. You had such faith and confidence in the Lord, in His provision throughout the lean years of you and Wayne’s ministry. Trust me, you sure weren’t in it for the money because every time a church you two started became even a little self supporting you turned it over to someone else and moved and started in a new place. You faithfully worked full time to support the family, so Wayne could focus on building a new church and congregation and work at an outside job more part-time. I would say you lived pretty well, according to God and Thanatopsis.
      And when your summons does come, I think there shall be pleasant dreams.

      Thank you for following me and posting a comment.
      Love you,
      Anne

  • Good article, Anne. So glad you covered that final, but most critical aspect….knowing our Maker. As we walk the cemeteries of Ukraine we see so many burials that happened during Soviet times. A time of strong atheism and yet, when the time of death comes, almost everyone either believes or wishes to believe in a Creator. It is evidenced by all the gravestones. When we strip away all the fluff and distractions of life, when we come to the end, it really does come down to that…..me and my Maker. So glad I walk with Jesus Christ who gives me comfort daily. Finding Him should be everyone’s number one priority.

    Coleen
    American in Ukraine

    • Anne Collins

      Coleen
      Thank you for taking time to comment on my blog. I can only imagine the things you have seen and experienced. Yet I am moved daily by the beauty you post.

      All the fluff and distractions of life. We can spend so much of our days on them. The things that matter are the things that will last. You got them figured out. And you are giving your life for them on foreign soil every day. Bless you!!
      Anne

  • Carrie Bayer

    Anne, this is wonderful. The season I’m in is trying to sort out the past, reconcile it with the present & plan for the future. My season is a mix of them all which has it’s perks but is a bit confusing at the same time. I love that Elinor shared this with you, she is an amazing gal & I love working with her. Thank you so much for your wisdom & insight- you are always so in tune with life. XOXOX Carrie

    • Anne Collins

      Carrie
      We all are on a unique path that is our very own. Yet we have so much in common in spite of the differences in our seasons and our paths. I love your heart. The confusion is something we all face from time to time. Believe me, I have my share. Glad we are here for each other.
      XOXOXO Anne

  • Christopher Iverson

    To everything, turn..turn…turn…
    There is a season, turn..turn…turn…
    And a time for every purpose under heaven.

    • Anne Collins

      Sing it, Chris…a time to be born, a time to die…. Thanks for commenting.

  • Barbara Hogan

    Anne, thank you for sharing and for talking openly about the journey. Yes there continue to be people who unfortunately don’t address the fact that none of us lives forever. When we don’t have things in place before we pass away, then we leave the burden to our family/friends to try and figure out what it is we wanted as our celebration of life and can the family afford it if we didn’t preplan our services and didn’t have an estate plan so that all of resources are now tied up in probate.

    I believe there is a joy in acknowledging that we are not on this earth forever — we are then free to make up our “bucket list” and enjoy places and people. We also realize the importance of telling people how we feel about them and why they are so special to us while they are with us. When we say it to the wind after they have left us, we won’t see their expression, we won’t hear their response, we won’t receive that special hug.

    • Barbara
      Thank you so much for taking time to respond to my blog on the final season. You definitely point out an important aspect and that is the total relief that comes when one has their final plans in writing and most of it covered financially.

      There comes a time when most of us will feel we have lived enough. Others will go out kicking and scratching because they want to do “one more thing”. Hugs to you and have an awesome holiday season. Anne

  • amy

    Anne
    What an inspiration you are to those around you. I find great pleasure in your writing and personal experience. We are all in different seasons in our lives but the end is still the same. I like you value my relationship with God. I work very hard at being the best I can be and the best to others. There are days that I fail but I ask for forgiveness and get up and try again.
    Thank you for always sharing so much of yourself with us. You are truly a woman of God.
    Amy

    • Anne Collins

      Amy,
      Thank you so much for your support to the blogs. All we can be is our best. We all struggle with different things. I guess if the struggles actually end there is nothing more to learn!

      I love the concept of forgiveness. Every day is a new beginning with no mistakes in it…yet! Then we get out of bed. Haha.
      Big hugs,
      Anne

  • Patricia Kolstad

    Annie
    You and I are both on the same track. Looking back at what we have seen, done, accomplished, and knowing that this time of our lives is the most precious. If we can impart to the younger ones, how important it is to remember all of the things you so clearly laid out, we know they would be much better off. But our lives are our own. And their journey is not ours. All we can ever do is be a shepherd and someone who has walked the walk.
    Nicely done, and thank you!

    Pat

    • Anne Collins

      Pat,
      We sure are on the same track. Life becomes more and more precious with every passing day. I think the healthy realization that it is the final stretch, and yet we still have our health, minds, energy, though not as great as before, and a whole lot more experience makes us know we have to stay busy and focus on the goals that still need to be realized.
      You are right. If someone asks, we are happy to share, but each one has their own journey.
      Love you
      Annie

  • GREG FORSTER

    Anne,

    Your thoughts and comments on them are as provocative as ever.

    In this still new career as a Pre-Arrangement Counselor, I find myself ironically, as a “newKid” and, with this clientele, a “young” guy again who is still listening to his next group of elders..but now…ever more patiently so without getting irritated.
    Some days, the job is, well, nothing extraordinary…and then it hits home DEEP REALIZATION HERE…that I am talking to my own future. I am conversing with a temporary soul mate with my same struggles, struggles that they have already faced that I am just facing or know that I will face, that has my opinions that they have honed thru similar life experiences. It is a wonderful bonding, serendipity moment, that I enjoy both in happy and sad ways.
    Sometimes I make friends, ever so temporary, in unusual places or circumstances, knowing due to life circumstances that they are only for the moment. This continues for me here with the people I encounter thru OCM.

    They remind me, make me think, as you have, about what I still need to accomplish, plan for, take care of , love, do, feel, take responsibility for, push myself to stop and enjoy the moment for (stop Greg!, just stop!), sow strength and stamina…and realize that I will not, will not, live longer than what is my time, so keep taking responsibility is the motto. Keep doing things so that others will not be burdened when I am gone. I am lucky to know that in doing these things, accomplishing them, FINISHING them, will bring me a Peace that lasts and is not transitory.

    May your Peace, and all the varied parts of it, be deep and long and satisfying.

    Your next door Buddy,

    Greg

    • Anne Collins

      Greg,
      Not to add any pressure, but you write with such soul, I tend to forget what you said and focus on the beauty of your words. What is keeping you from at least “guest blogging??

      Let me back up now…You ARE talking about your own future, all of ours, eventually. That’s why each season is so important to handle well, isn’t it? And we are in this together. In our industry, we are either very much feeling and sensitive individuals or thinkers. The combination is dynamic.
      Thanks for your succinct comments.
      Anne

  • Mark

    Anne…..Thanks for the information about the seasons of life…..you reminded me that no matter what season I am I should always be saying “I love you” a lot….thanks, Mark

    • Anne Collins

      Mark
      Thanks for taking time to read and comment. Yes, nothing sounds sweeter to one’s ears than “I love you” from a dad, a son, a dear friend or even a semi-close acquaintance. There are many levels of love. Some may even be a temporary feeling you are the recipient of from a family you really went out there for. It is just as genuine and may sometimes be expressed for the appreciation that they have for you at that moment, or vice versa.
      We can never have enough love in the world.
      Anne

  • Joanne Milo

    Oh my, thank you Anne for guiding me to this post … just simply perfection!

    • Anne Collins

      Joanne,
      Thank you so much for checking it out! I was amazed to hear of the book you have written on Juvenile Diabetes!! I am so impressed! Keep me in the loop on your progress!

      You have me in your court on whatever you write! Thanks again for checking out my little blog.
      Big Hugs,
      Anne