Monday, August 31, 2015

Old Folks, New Love

There's a nice older song, "Love is lovelier the second time a
round." It's heart warming to see an older widow or widower find new love.  I like to see it but I don't envy it.  At this time in my life I need to be alone. That's another one that goes in the category of  "We are all different and there is no right or wrong way to deal with death."

Friday, August 28, 2015

Do it now!

The tadrn address stands for "Talk About Death Right Now."  I am quite passionate about taking care of as many end-of-life details as I can before it happens.  No doubt there are friends and family who are, to put it mildly, uncomfortable about that.  I am not depressed.  I do not plan to shuffle off to Buffalo (that's an old song) or anyplace else very soon.  It's just something I need to do. And I would be happy if more people did it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Old Guy Mortality Musings

If there is anything at all that's different about this blog and other four that I hope somebody stumbles upon, it's the age thing.  At 87, I could be the father or grandfather of  most internet users.  It would be real nice if that made me wise  It just puts me in a very different place from anyone who reads my geriatric ramblings.
I am a widower as of four years ago.  My parents, aunts and uncles, siblings and all but a few possible cousins are long gone. How could someone half my age or younger possibly relate to anything I say about death?
There's not much I can tell them. So I talk to myself.  Isn't that what many bloggers do? It's good to see your thoughts on screen and be surprised at what you wrote. You think, " Did I say that?  Is that what I've been thinking?"
That's a pretty good reason to keep a journal or diary or write a blog about life, death and everything in between.  If you need comments, put it on facebook.  If it's your personal diary, do a blog.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Famous Five Stages

Ever since my wife died four years ago, I have had  questions about the five stages of grief that the counselors talk about. They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  They came from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.  Her 1969 book, "On Death and Dying," made her name a household word.  We still hear about her today.


I was thinking, is there something wrong with me?  If I experienced those stages I got them in the wrong order and I'm not sure I went through any of them.  Except maybe acceptance,  which isn't really a stage for me.

This is one reason why I have so far avoided the various grief support groups. I'm not sure I want to hear about how others deal with death. I have read lots of personal posts and articles, some from friends. They  leave me with that same nagging question.  Am I doing it wrong?
Intellectually I know the answer.  There is no right or wrong way.  Read the comment from a person who worked with Dr. Ross.  Very interesting.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Me Boy. You Girl.

Do guys deal with death in a different way than the girls do? Are men and women the same as long as we keep our clothes on?  I am old enough that I don't fear popping off about gender related issues.  That can get you in a lot of trouble. Yup, I'd say maleness is one of the big things that makes me what I am about everything.  Including death.   It's my guess, only a guess, that the number of women who write and read about death and attend grief support groups is far greater than the men.  It might be argued that women live longer so of course there will be more of them dealing with death. I still think there's more to it.  
I will admit my error if someone has the figures to prove me wrong.




                                                       

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

WHY BLOG ABOUT DEATH?

I don't know how many blogs about death and dying there are.  I tried to count them... got to a hundred and stopped there.  Most bloggers are probably realistic enough to know that we're lucky if we can get 2 or 3 close friends or family members to read our stuff.  We do it anyway.  Maybe for ego, sometimes for therapy.   It's pretty good grief therapy that I write mostly for me.  With a title like "Death Happens,"  I can't imagine many surfers who stumble on this one looking to see what I have to say.  Death is pretty far down on the list of things internet users want to read about or think about.  So I keep grinding them out for me.

 



 Sure there's  that hope that some little thing I say might accidentally be of value in a way that I never thought of.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Dream burial car

 

That classic funeral car is a 1940 Caddy. I wouldn't mind taking a ride in it, either now or to my final resting place.  But if I were going to be buried in a favorite car, which does happen sometimes, my dream burial car would be a mid 80s Chrysler Fifth Avenue.

 I can't explain why, there is just something about that style that has tremendous appeal.  Maybe it's "your grandfather's car." I think that's it.



And it does look a lot like a Cadillac.  Maybe a poor man's Caddy. But it wouldn't be cheap today if you can find one.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Widower's lament




 I did it...cooked 2 eggs over easy.  I had been scared of trying anything but scrambled. If Midge was watching from heaven I know she was saying "I could do it better."  To which I can only answer, "You are so right.  I do the best I can without you but my best is not all that great."

Friday, August 7, 2015

Those Cheeseheads are pretty smart

My previous post opened with, "Do I think about what happens when you die?  Not a whole lot." That's right.  I don't think about what happens to me but I think a lot about what happens to my family during the days and weeks soon after my departure. I think about the stuff they will need to deal with. Those thoughts do not make me happy.
I will probably leave them with a physical mess.  I am a widower.  My wife was not a great housekeeper and I'm no better.  At least we couldn't complain about each others lack of tidiness.  To counter my breast beating and guilt about that mess, I have become somewhat of a fanatic about what the morticians call pre-planning.   I don't mean just the "final arrangements." I do most strongly believe in setting that up before you die but I refer to the mountains of legal and business things a family must deal with, especially when a last parent dies. The estate must be closed.  That can be really hairy and complex. You need a lawyer to draw a bunch of papers that spell it all out what happens to your assets.  Don't let an older loved one get away with 'I don't have anything so I don't need all that.  Just bury me in the back yard."  If it ever was that simple, it isn't any more.
There is a town in Wisconsin that  might be the most prepared-for-death city in the whole country.  The good people of  La Crosse probably have a classier way to describe what they do.  One writer headlined the story "The town where everybody talks about death."
They spend less on end-of-life related health care than anyplace anywhere.   Just short of a hundred percent of La Crosse residents have  an Advance Directive.  That's a paper that spells out what kind of treatment and life support you want if you get seriously ill and near death. That saves a lot of money and I'm sure it prevents  some family arguments about what the loved one would have wanted. My family members might not all be happy with my Advance Directive but at least they can say "That's what the old man wanted so I guess we're stuck with it."
I must visit the Badger State. I will show up in La Crosse, shake a few hands and whip out my Advanced Directive before they ask me if I have one.  I'll bet those Cheeseheads will welcome me with open arms.

       


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

When we die

Do I think and wonder about what happens when you die?  Not a whole lot. I know all the theories, beliefs and proofs from those who died, went to heaven or hell and came back to write a book about it. I have lots of interest in religion and spirituality in its endless and varied forms and styles. But I don't talk about it here. That's in one of my other blogs, goofy church stuff . As the name suggests, it's not real serious and not at all preachy.  If you need spiritual counsel there are countless places to find it.  I don't do that. If you seek help dealing with death or any kind of grief, there is splendid help on the internet and probably right where you live. This blog is just my observations about death and how we deal with it.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

But seriously, folks


There's a popular site that shows a picture of your gravestone with the date you will die and how it happened.  I don't need to know when and I already know how.  I will babble baby talk as I expire from a dreadful feline disease that I got from kissing my cats.  Real men kiss cats

Alright, how can I write so lightly about death? I answer with a question. Will it help me or anybody else if I talk about death with great sadness, grief, fear and dread?  Maybe it's because I'm quite terribly old.  If I was ever afraid of dying, it was so long ago that I don't remember how it felt.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Favorite posts from "What's your grief"

I'm a big fan of what's your grief,  Eleanor and Litsa's blog or web page.  Whatever it is,  it covers just about any kind of loss or grief or bereavement you will encounter, from losing a pet or life partner to lost hopes and dreams.  There are favorite posts I like to go back to. A great one is what not to say to a griever.  I added "I know how you feel" to their list. There are so many countless individual things that affect how each of us thinks and feels about death and reacts to it,  in general and with a particular loss.  You can't possibly know I feel and there's no way I can know what's happening in your head or heart. I am not you and you are not me.

Another favorite is Eleanor's personal story of dealing 
with her mother's death.  Eleanor is an introvert.  Anyone who  is pretty far over on the "I" side of Meyers-Briggs will relate to her  introverts and grief  post in a big way.  She is looking at the funeral home's back door, wishing she could get out of there and handle it in her own introvert way and not have to deal with all the people there. I was hooked when she wrote that.  I knew she would have more to say that would make good sense to introverts even if others think there's something wrong with us that needs to be fixed.

Where you fall on the introvert/extrovert scale is one of the things that has a lot to do with the way you handle death.  If you think you are one or the other or even if you're one of the pretty well balanced folks with some traits from both sides,  I do hope you will read that one. It might help  you to understand those who are strongly over on one side or the other when grief comes into their lives and they don't deal with it the way you would.  And do take a look at my blog Introverts are Interesting.
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Wait a minute. Hold everything. Litsa just did a post about preserving her late father's beautiful handwriting.  Some grandly creative ideas, even if your penmanship is like mine and it's the worst possible thing you'd want to be saved.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What's Your Grief



At age 85 I could be the father or grandfather of most of the people who use the internet and read blogs. With all the deaths I have dealt with in those 8 decades, including the passing of my wife of 60 years, I should have some really wise  things to say about death. Nope. Like the other 4 blogs I grind out, this one is little more than half baked comments and observations.  I do hope they might be of some value to somebody somewhere.  But if you want real, thoughtful, professional, caring ideas about dealing with death, there are good resources here on the internet.

One that I like a lot is "What's Your Grief?"  The blog is  written by Eleanor and Litsa, long time professional mental health workers specializing in dealing with grief and bereavement. I like their writing style and their different ideas about it.  They have both lost parents.  I especially like their personal stories of how they have handled death.  A recent post gets into the question, do men and women feel and express grieving in gender specific ways. One of my favorites is about the death of pets.  When my wife died, I didn't cry until a favorite cat had to be sent to the Rainbow Bridge soon after the passing of my wife.  That did it. Others articles talk about music, memorial services and funerals, and the words we use about grieving.  I was very interested in their thoughts about the groups that are offered to us by funeral homes or local agencies so we can be with others dealing with death. I like their ideas about how important it is to find a group that's right for you.  I didn't attend a group when my wife died and don't feel that I would be comfortable in that setting. Sometimes I think I might go to one to get a feeling of how it works.   I know there are lots of bereaved folks who find much comfort in talking about it with others that are going through it  Anyway, do take a look at "What's Your Grief?"  If you or someone you care about is dealing with a loss you might want to share it.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

If you need to talk...

How many times  have you said it a funeral or memorial service,  "If you need to talk..."  I said it a time or two but I'm having second thoughts about it. Some of us just need to talk about birth and death  and everything in between. OK, the "T" in the TARDN blog address is for "Talk." But for those  that are not all that talkative, let's change it to "Think about death right now."

When my wife of almost 60 years passed away I did not feel a great need to talk about it.  Not that I couldn't talk about it.  I just didn't need to.  I'm a card carrying, died-in-the-wool,   classic textbook introvert.                                                
We are a strange breed. We don't do well with small talk. We get charged up from inside rather than from groups and activity and talk.  We say weird things like "My own thoughts are my best friends." When I read about a death where the deceased was surrounded by family and friends chattering and laughing to keep from crying,  I think "that's nice.  It's appropriate.  It's probably what that loved one wanted. But not for me."   I was alone with my wife when she passed away and that's how I wanted it. I say that with a bit of guilt because she probably would have wanted the people and talk. And there are family members who were deprived of the opportunity to be with her at that time. Some guilt is one of the feelings we feel when a loved one leaves us.  But we are what we are.  We all deal with death in our own way.  Even if it's perceived as not quite "normal."

Those differences can split families and kill friendships.  I have a feeling that there are loved ones in heaven looking down on their families squabbling over everything from who got what in the will to how the dearly departed's body was dealt with,  buried or cremated. The departed is thinking "Would you please just shut up and let me rest in peace.!"

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Funeral Biz

Here we go with #4 all about death

Before I start this one I say again... This blog does not offer comfort or insight to bereaved persons. There are many places to turn to for that.  This one is just personal observations and comments about death.  If you find something of value in it I will be most gratified.
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The funeral industry has always taken its lumps from critics. A big one came from the pointed pen of Jessica Mitford.  Remember her?  My mortician friends are trying to forget her.  She was a 60s activist who pulled no punches at all in spelling out what was wrong with our society. Her scathing critique of the funeral business, "The American Way of Death" sold a lot of copies and caused quite an uproar. She also turned out a detailed essay about the practice of embalming, telling us a whole lot more than we wanted to know.  She considered embalming  immoral, unethical and probably illegal.  She gave her essay a grandly provocative title, "Behind the formaldehyde curtain." I don't advise reading Jessica's stuff unless you are real curious about that sort of thing.  If that's the case, as it is with me, go for it.

Ever wondered what it might be like to be raised in your parents' funeral home? An old HBO series, "Six Feet Under" offers a dramatic  fictionalized account that probably has some truth in it.  I definitely do not recommend it unless you can handle very rough language, lots of sex, drugs and just about every personal and family dysfunction known to humankind. The series won lots of awards.  I found it quite fascinating but I suppose you must be weird to like that kind of thing.

Back to Jessica Mitford.  What would she think about the twenty-first century funeral industry?  She would like a lot of it. You can have a green, environmentally friendly, biodegradable service. You can become a tree, your cremains and high quality soil nourishing the seed. You can watch a loved one's cremation. You can keep a body at home on ice as it was done in the old days. You can have it just about any way you want it, including practices that used to be illegal or just frowned upon. Morticians stay in business the same way all businesses do.  They change with the times and they are equipped to do it your way ... from a big formal and traditional service to the most contemporary celebration of life.

This is not a free commercial for those in what used to be the undertaking business.  As I get ever closer to the time when the grim one will reap me,  I need to think about it.
I'm not with those who continue to publish terrible "exposes" about the funeral industry.  Are there excesses and crooks?  Sure.  Is selling products and services a big part of it? Why not? All the more reason to think, plan and talk about death before it happens.  You can go to your mortician knowing what you want and how much you will pay for it. Stay tuned for more of this if you can handle it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Stop the music!

Death talk #3
 

Here's one from my goofychurchstuff blog way back in 2008. 

 I attended a traditional funeral service yesterday ... hymns, prayers, bible readings, nice eulogy, the whole thing.  I liked it. Some of services where they play the deceased's favorite music are a bit hard to take. I know this gets into the thing about whether funerals are for the departed or the ones still here.  It's mostly for friends and family to share memories.  But I still don't want to hear ear busting rock or twangin' country. Let's assume the departed one is listening to his or her favorite music in heaven, so don't make me hear it here, OK?

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That was seven years ago and and I continue to have some hare-brained ideas about my memorial service.  For a while it would be in the theater downtown with a special friend who was a  young theater organ prodigy playing the pipe organ. Then I was going to record a message to be played.  Music  ranged from sentimental old standard popular songs to Christian hymns and good old gospel songs. I don't think I had a favorite clergy person in mind to send me on my way. Well maybe online preacher friend John Keener but he's in Montana. My own recorded modest and humble eulogy would do it better anyway. I just got another idea.  I was on a local radio polka show the other day. Wouldn't it be fun for friends and family to listen to two hours of polka music along with my reminiscing?  Not much.

Have no fear, it's not going to happen that way. There will be no service. Please do not complain that you were deprived of the opportunity to get together and say nice things about me.  Just send me a smile, thinking of what a grand production it might have been and thanking me for not making you sit through it.



 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Good Heavens

Post #2 in this ongoing series that I hope keeps going on.--------------------------------------------

There won't be much about the religious or spiritual aspect of death here.  Whatever thoughts I have about that are in another blog. On this one I play the role of a generally objective observer of the thoughts, feeling, attitudes, customs and practices that surround the inevitable thing we call death.

I don't know how many of us believe heaven is a place in the sky where we go when we die. Whether you believe it or not, haven't you spoken of a departed loved one "looking down" on us? But we say it only when something good is happening down here. I don't recall saying it when I'm up to something that I do not want to be seen on the big screen heavenly TV up there. I don't want my late wife to know that I have not cleaned the pile of snow off off the bird feeder and fed  the creatures she loved to watch. On the other hand, the thought that she might see it is enough to get me out there and doing what needs to be done.

Monday, February 2, 2015

It's a long long road.

My wife died in mid-December of 2013, just short of what would have been our 60th anniversary.  You don't need to do much math to figure out that I've got a lot of miles on my odometer.  I have attended more funerals and memorial services than I care to count. It's not quite right to say it gets easier but it does change.  My thoughts and feelings about death are vastly different than they were 60, 40, 20 years ago or even just months ago. I am not overcome with grief, but able to find something good and positive about the deceased.


When you have racked up as many miles down the road of life as I have, you think about your own death.  And  your mind changes about that, too. With each funeral or memorial service that I experience I find myself thinking,  "do I want something like this when my time comes?"
I'm glad that my earlier notions about  the kind of going away party I wanted were not set in stone.  They reflected the place in my life where I was at that time.  I'm not there anymore.  In a future post I will talk about the new twenty-first century end-of-life observances that look pretty radical if there is any of the traditionalist in you.

When my wife died there was cremation and no service.  That's how it will be when my time comes.  It has all been arranged and paid for.  There are those who have a hard time accepting that. I attended a service where the closed casket was empty.  I knew about it because the minister who conducted the service was a friend.  He told me the family was seriously divided about cremation and the branch that believed the deceased wanted it that way managed to avoid a big family fight with the empty coffin.  I certainly don't recommend anything like that but that story illustrates why it is so important to talk about death and take care of end of life details before it happens. If that family had argued about it and perhaps come to some kind of compromise before they lost their loved one,  the dangerous and deceitful thing with the empty casket would not have happened. That was many years ago and  I don't know if part of the family lived with the secret or it was revealed.

The worst possible time to deal with all the details and decisions about a death is when it happens.  The TADRN in this blog's address stands for "Talk about death right now."
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