Thoughts When Life Ends Too Soon

Talking about Your Own End of Life

Bereavement. Expired. Departed this life. Passed Away. The End. The Grim Reaper. Kick the bucket. Death. We use so many euphemisms to describe the end of life for others, and so carefully avoid talking about our own death.  

 A few weeks ago at work, the ambulance brought in a lady my age who had suffered a heart attack at home and in spite of everyone’s best efforts she did not survive, (oops there’s another one!). She was MY age. After everything was done that we could do for the patient, and her shocked, grieving family, I was left with paperwork and my thoughts about how someone MY age could die suddenly like that. The distressing thing is that people die every day, and they aren’t all old people.  Death can come for us in the prime of life or when we are crusty and ancient. The hardest deaths are those where everyone is completely unprepared, with no warning and no way to get ready in heart and mind. Those deaths will always be part of the work we do in healthcare and ministry, but it behooves us all to talk about what we want for our own end of life care and after with our loved ones while we still can. And it should happen no matter what age you are right now.

The rest of this post is a letter I recently wrote my family to help them when that day inevitably arrives and my husband or I breathe our last.  I urge you to let it help you make your own decisions and find a way to discuss them with your loved ones.

Dear Sons,

Although it is not easy to talk about death, your dad and I have a few things we would like you to know before that inevitable day arrives when one or both of us go to be with the Lord, leaving this physical body behind.

We do not want undue life support such as intubation and ventilators, CPR or drugs to try and extend life beyond reasonable hope. It is ok to let us go.

Please allow yourselves to grieve. Losing a parent is a difficult life event and you will feel the loss for a long while. I remember how strange it felt when your granddad and then your grandma passed away. It was hard and painful, yet also kind of a relief because both of them had reached that point, with the strokes that they had suffered, that there was no hope of recovery. But remember also, that you don’t need to grieve as those who have no hope, because in the Lord this body may be asleep but we are present with Jesus…1Thessalonians 4:13

So please sit with us while we die. Read Scripture, pray, talk to us as we are fading. It will help you to be there too.

A simple funeral or graveside service is enough. Just be sure the gospel is preached clearly and completely so everyone there has a chance to hear the truth of God’s grace toward sinners. You can skip the eulogies, and focus on Christ and His goodness.

As far as burial goes, we would prefer a natural burial with no embalming, no casket. There are now places where a body can be laid to rest in a wicker or pine box and shroud, simply and naturally allowed to return to dust.  Many of the old pioneer graveyards will allow it. If its winter and that is not possible, cremation is also good. If you do that, please put our ashes in an urn that can then have a tree planted in it. When the time is right, plant the tree by a river or lake or somewhere beautiful that you like.

Please do not spend much money on caskets, embalming and all the other commercial funeral preparations. Don’t let the funeral director guilt you into all that. Neither of us wants that at all.

Here are a couple of websites with more information on natural burial.

https://www.asacredmoment.com/green-burial/

https://www.passagesinternational.com/eco-friendly-caskets/willow-carrier-and-shrouds/

https://urnabios.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_burial

While I know this all seems a little morbid, death is part of life. I have seen too many families struggle when a loved one passes away because they haven’t thought these things through.  We hope this helps you understand our wishes, and that it makes that difficult time a little easier for you.

Let’s talk about this sometime. The one thing we want you each to know is that we love you, and we are so very proud of the fine men you have grown into.

Love – Mom and Dad

The Montana Women’s Triathlon: My Race Report or Random Thoughts as I Swim, Bike, Run to the Finish Line.

 

In case you’ve ever wondered what goes through my mind as I run a triathlon (and I’m sure it’s one of the pressing questions of your life), I thought I would share some of my mental race chatter with the world. Of course, it starts long before the race with all the nervous what ifs. Like what if I have a “wardrobe malfunction” and split out my shorts? What if I crash my bike? Or worse, what if I have a flat tire? I know…but if you crash, you get back up and keep riding. In theory, I can fix a flat but have never had to so that could be a race ender! Then, I remember all the great volunteers out there on the course and breathe a sigh of relief.

So then there is the transition area where you get your shoes on after the swim. This year, I carefully planned where to put my bike and stuff for the fastest bike out and in. Then they moved the timing mats and completely messed up my little plan. Because really, that extra 17 seconds would have made such a huge difference. Oh well.  So I decided not to worry about that either. My bike was on the end of a row, so it was easy to find. You definitely want your transition spot to be visible or memorable in a group of 150 other racers so that you aren’t wandering around after your swim or bike trying to find it. Transition time is on the clock! I can’t even imagine what it’s like in the big races with over 1000 competitors.

So we sing the National Anthem and line up for the swim start as the butterflies start dancing in my stomach. Actually, they feel more like butterfly demolition derby in there. I wonder if the person I’m sharing the lane with will be doing some sort of frog kick that I have to watch out for so I don’t get my goggles kicked off. She was. She didn’t kick me. I just kept telling myself to go slow and steady. In the past, I’ve tried to go out fast, gotten completely out of breath and then had to side stroke just to keep moving. This year my mantra was “good form, slow and steady”.  Which was about all I could do anyway, considering I haven’t been in the pool for almost a year. Happily about 2 weeks before the race, I found out my little local summer pool now offers lap swimming so I was able to get in a whopping 5 whole practice swims before the triathlon. Getting out of the pool after finishing my swim was definitely not graceful or athletic. But out I got.

My only thought on the bike was that “nobody passes me on the bike” because they don’t. I have a great little tri bike, and the bike segment is my fastest part of the tri. I didn’t even have any worries out on the bike course except catching and passing the next person in front of me. Well, and hoping not to have a flat. Which I didn’t.  Pulling into transition after the bike, my legs felt like jelly because of the climb on the last part of the bike course. I pushed it pretty hard up that last hill. Like gasping for breath and thinking I was going to barf hard. I love the bike segment!

Ah, then there is the run. Or for me the fast walk. My knees simply won’t take much running, and given that I had fully committed to this race about a month before the day, I decided to walk the course and not worry about being fast. There is something to be said for 8-12 weeks of training before a triathlon. Which I didn’t do, but I had been doing a lot of biking so at least I was in pretty good shape from that. As yet another woman passed me on the run course, I couldn’t help but think “yeah, but I smoked you on the bike”. I’m not competitive or anything.

The beautiful thing about the Montana Women’s Triathlon is that women of all ages, sizes and shapes get a chance to try something hard and scary. But everyone is supportive and funny and just a little competitive. We are all feeling the same things and having the same worries but triathlon is a sport that you run as an individual. For me, I’m competing against that inner voice that says I can’t do this, its too hard, I’m too old, too fat, too out of shape. Well, and competing against you on the bike…

I saved up a little energy for the finish line. I ran the last 20 yards or so because I must run across the finish line…upright…with a smile on my face. I just completed my 8th triathlon and that is the win for me.