Mama’s Final Gift

This year, I will observe Mother’s Day without my own mother for the first time. I am still dealing with the emotions of watching her slip away and being helpless to stop the process. I’m sure I’ll be doing so for a long time.

My mother left me and my sisters free to deal with our loss by several decisions that she made years ago. I offer this information in an effort to share the importance of the difference that those decisions made.

  1. First, my mother purchased a funeral plan years ago. She had the policy and made sure all of us knew that it existed. It covered her funeral and cremation and almost all of the expenses. We had a final bill of just over $300.00 for a few incidentals that we elected to have. Everything else was covered: the casket for the funeral service, transporting her and preparing her for the service, the chapel, all of it.
  2. Second, she told all of us what she wanted: the songs she wanted to be played, the color she wanted to wear, all of the little details that can tear a family apart at such a time. She made sure that there would be no question about her final wishes, so no conflict about her service.
  3. Third, she prepared a power of attorney so that her affairs could be handled when she became incapacitated by failing vision and Alzheimer’s. Her bills got paid on time and she always had what she needed, because she provided the means for things to be done.
  4. Fourth, she left her health care wishes documented. She had a Living Will and Advanced Directive in place and a Do Not Resuscitate order on file. She told all of us repeatedly what she did and didn’t want. Long before dementia set in, she insisted we all know her feelings. As hard as it was to have those conversations over the years and to let her go when the situation became hopeless, we all knew that it was what she wanted and we abided by her wishes.

Because of her foresight and consideration, we were able to focus on her. Her clarity in advance of the need freed us to follow her wishes without dissension. This doesn’t mean we don’t hurt. We do hurt, and deeply. But we didn’t have any arguments about how things should be done because we knew exactly how she wanted them done.

Her planning worked because of two key factors. The first was her disclosure of those plans to all four of us. The second was our desire to see her final wishes fulfilled. I’ve been in situations where disclosure was incomplete or egos got in the way. Those conditions make a difficult and painful experience even harder.

I thank God for my mother’s planning and my sisters’ support of her plans. Because of those things, we were able to say our temporary goodbyes without rancor or dissension. Our last earthly memories of her are untarnished by anger or bitterness. Thanks, Mama, for your final gift to us.

We are all of us stars, and we deserve to twinkle.

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