Deep Thoughts - Reader Beware #11: End of Life Lessons

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Blog entry by Sandra posted 04-01-2014 12:55 AM 1649 reads 0 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 10: Sometimes, it's just ugly. Part 11 of Deep Thoughts - Reader Beware series Part 12: Total Fluff »

I’m notorious for over-thinking, overanalyzing and basically spending too much energy navel-gazing. This blog is intended to get some of it out of my head. I’ll be glib, sarcastic and flippant in my other posts. Who knows how this one will turn out. It may be a train wreck, so reader beware! If navel-gazing doesn’t hold any appeal or distraction for you, move on. If you’re allergic to estrogen, move away quickly.

My own personal rules are to not to spend more than 30 minutes on any one post. I can correct a mistake if I catch it right away, but can’t go back. If I post it, I can’t edit or delete. I tend to edit things to death and have been known to delete my posts before it’s too late.

If anything resonates with you, feel free to chime in.

9:05 pm
Conversation with my son as he ran his hand over the casket:
him: “Mom, this is nice. What kind of wood is it?” (that’s my boy!)
me: Maple. It is nice, isn’t it?
him: Why would they make it out of such nice shiny wood if they’re just going to put it in the ground?
me: That’s a very good question

A week ago, my mother-in-law was alive. She was full steam ahead, baking bread almost every day, visiting friends, chatting on the phone, church, travel, driving etc. She took a massive stroke and died about 12 hours later. She was 89. It was sudden and it is sad, but in my opinion it was not tragic. I hope I am blessed to leave this world in that way. And for the record, she was wearing her ‘good’ wig. She looked like a million bucks.

I’ve dealt with death in my profession. I’ve used gallows humour that would surely offend many, but that others would completely understand. I don’t think those experiences have made me callous, or heartless, but perhaps they’ve made me more pragmatic about the process of leaving this mortal coil. Or is it shaking off the mortal coil? Some quote about the moral coil. I’ll look it up later.

In the last week, my kids have learned a lot about the whole business of death and I’m grateful for the life lessons they’ve had. End of life lessons, really. We sat with Grandma and talked with her in the hospital even though we knew her body was shutting down. Some friends joined us and there was laughter and story-telling amidst the tears. The kids left with friends as the end grew nearer, and my husband and I sat with his mother, holding her hand, praying and talking to her. The body doesn’t usually give up gracefully and we were thankful when she was at peace.

And then the work began. The obituary, the funeral home, picking out an outfit, pictures, phone calls, beer, more phone calls, company and more beer. In her small community, it’s traditional for a ‘wake’ to stretch over 2 days before the funeral. This is when everyone lines up and walks past the casket, says their goodbyes then have somewhat awkward conversations with loved ones. (aka us)

We prepared the kids and practiced some things they could say in return for condolences and we talked about how everyone reacts differently to death. I explained that their father had just lost his mother and that no matter her age, she was his Mommy.

Sister Ada was there. She is 93. She went through the line twice. She no longer remembers us and when I told her that we had lunch with her just awhile ago, she quipped “well I don’t remember, so you’ll have to come back to see if I remember the next time.”
One lady said ‘thank you for your loss’ to each of us in turn.
Some people mumbled their way through, and my husband couldn’t place half of the people there.
We laughed about all of that at the end of both evenings.

The funeral was lovely. Our daughter did a reading and our son was a pallbearer. He told me that it was REALLY heavy and that if he didn’t lift it started to tip.

They saw their father cry for the first time. (They see me cry all the time)

They learned that this whole ‘we all die’ thing is true.

And now they’re learning that the world will go on and that the sun will still rise regardless of who dies.

We all need reminding of those things, so thank you Thelma for the life lessons and the end of life lessons.

9:52 -but I was interrupted.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

22 comments so far

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

29876 posts in 2483 days

#1 posted 04-01-2014 01:05 AM

Of course your thoughts always reflect many of ours. Most of us simply aren’t strong enough to say it out loud. Of course my prayers go out to you and your family. It’s good that the kids can see that strong people can cry also. Tough lessons.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View JL7's profile


8685 posts in 3110 days

#2 posted 04-01-2014 01:07 AM

Rest in peace Thelma… condolences to you and the family Sandra. Your observations are off the charts…...I like sister Ada…..

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View lightcs1776's profile


4228 posts in 1799 days

#3 posted 04-01-2014 01:08 AM

Besutifully written,Sandra. So many lessons..

-- Chris ** If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. — Tom Paine **

View DocSavage45's profile


8699 posts in 2988 days

#4 posted 04-01-2014 01:10 AM

Sandra, Well said. Hope she lived a full life. Sorry for your loss.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View patron's profile


13630 posts in 3486 days

#5 posted 04-01-2014 01:20 AM

condolences to the family

Why would they make it out of such nice shiny wood
if they’re just going to put it in the ground?
because thats how much we love them
and want that journey to be the best for them
into the unknown

i was asked to make a coffin
for this man
dakpa yeshe dorge

he was the ‘weatherman’ for the dali lama
it was a cube that he could sit in a lotus position in
(as he had all his life)

we cremated him and the box
out in the open in a natural setting

i was asked why i did my best work on it
mortice and tenon joints and aromatic cedar panels
a sculpted top that opened like a crown over him
as his devotees came to pay respects
(he was very high up and had thousands of members
in his buddhistic sect)

‘why go to all that trouble just to burn the box’

‘i gave my best
he gave his life’

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View boxcarmarty's profile


16583 posts in 2505 days

#6 posted 04-01-2014 01:26 AM

What kind of bread???

-- My mind is like lighting, one brilliant flash, then its gone.....

View prattman's profile


445 posts in 2263 days

#7 posted 04-01-2014 02:02 AM

Very touching, so sad, hit close to home and made me cry.

-- Everyone calls me Ed or Eddie , mom still calls me Edward if she is mad at me.

View DIYaholic's profile


19657 posts in 2820 days

#8 posted 04-01-2014 03:16 AM

There was no over thinking or over analyzing going on here….
Just heartfelt reflection.

I’m sorry for your family’s loss….
But as you so movingly said, end of life lessons were learned.
As difficult as it is to learn them, your children are lucky….
They have YOU!!!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 2220 days

#9 posted 04-01-2014 10:03 AM

Thanks for the comments

Love your response David. I did tell him that it was to show respect to Grandma.

Marty – she made white bread and also some amazing porridge (oatmeal) bread. And her rolls were fabulous with molasses while they were still warm.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2987 days

#10 posted 04-01-2014 12:04 PM

I thoroughly enjoyed having your blog to read this morning over coffee.

I will not tell you I am sorry for your loss. I never tell anyone that. I think that is why the only funeral I will attend in the future will be my own (unless of course the unfortunate event that my wife or one of my kids go before I)
I do not attend funerals, not because I can’t handle them, but because I usually offend someone because I do not “mourn properly”.
I do not know if it’s my French upbringing along my south Louisiana kin folks, or maybe it’s the fact that my health has caused me to face my own mortality long ago, but my views of life, and death, do not coincide with what some think of as “normal”.
I have discussed with my wife at length how I want my remains dealt with. She hates even approaching the subject. She knows though that the one thing I want most is to not have some depressingly mournful service but instead a gathering of friend and family with drink, food, stories and laughter. I want them to basically have a party.
You see, in my view of life and the passing from, death is a part of life.
Death is the part of life where your loved ones can seize a moment to look back on your life and remember. Funerals are for the living. So, in my opinion, a great funeral does not need to be a mourning of one’s passing, but a celebration of the time they were here.

I typed quite a bit more of my thoughts here, but decided to delete a good bit of it. Instead, allow me to close by quoting the last thing I heard my grandfather say before he passed.

“Don’t you SOB’s cry for me. I lived every day that The Lord gave me, not a day less, not a day more. You want to cry about something? Go ahead. Walk your @$$ down that hallway. There’s a nursery down there. Cry for those babies, because they now have to live in a damned world without me in it”.


View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 2220 days

#11 posted 04-01-2014 12:16 PM

Love it William, thank you.
Facing one’s mortality does affect how we see dying and death.
Many of the things for Thelma were done for her family, which is fine.
Grief is one thing, and there are many ways that people deal with it. But I have no patience for the drama leeches who are there just to have a good story for later. It took a concerted effort to restrain myself.

When I die, my family can do whatever the heck the want to do. As long as they don’t put solar lights on my grave. That gives me the creeps…

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View kenn's profile


810 posts in 3865 days

#12 posted 04-01-2014 02:26 PM

May she rest in peace and may those who loved her and are still here find peace in a world without her.

-- Every cloud has a silver lining

View tyvekboy's profile


1807 posts in 3158 days

#13 posted 04-01-2014 02:30 PM

Sandra, sorry for your family’s loss. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on our finite life.

This is a good reminder to all of us us to get finished with that project we started and all the other projects we want to do. At my age saying “I’ll get to it later” is not a good thing. We never know when our time will be up.

-- Tyvekboy -- Marietta, GA ………….. one can never be too organized

View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 2220 days

#14 posted 04-01-2014 02:49 PM

Thanks Kenn, and very true Tyvek, very true.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View JoeinGa's profile


7739 posts in 2152 days

#15 posted 04-01-2014 10:57 PM

I’ll add my condolences here to you and yours Sandra and as a side note, my wife’s father passed away last Saturday. He was also 89 and in somewhat failing health. He’d been in and out of the hospital 6 or 8 times since Christmas and when someone would ask me what the root of his health problems were, I’d say “He 90 years old and he’s CRANKY”.

Because he lived the last 7 years in the house of his “caretaker/companion” and every time he’d say “I dont feel well today” she’d call the damn ambulance!

We were at his side the last 3 hours of his life. My wife held his hand and told him it was “Ok if he had to leave” We were most thankful that he went peacefully and was coherent (and knew who we all were) right up till he quietly passed on. He passed away Friday night/Saturday morning at 5:45am and we had the viewing/funeral Monday morning at our church here in town. We all went to the gravesite and watched as he was laid to rest while “Taps” was played. My wife was presented with his flag and we all went back to the church social hall and ate while we talked about him/his life.

When MY dad passed we did the same thing William says, we didn’t have a wake. We waited till about 2 months AFTER his death/cremation and all gathered and had a Celebration of Life” just as he asked us to do.

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

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