Good grief – another year almost gone! And, we discover again that “from the womb to the tomb, life is preparation for separation.”
Anne Murray confirms the same message in her song, “Somebody’s always saying goodbye.” That somebody is you and I, and we who entered 2013 believing “there’s plenty of time” may have discovered “there’s no time left.”
So, instead of our leaving this world with no regrets, we wish we could relive parts that we would change. As always, we have a choice: To prepare or not to prepare.
Some years ago, a woman in her 70s told me that she was making no preparation for her death. She would let her children make all preparation after she died, when they were most vulnerable to pressures from family and friends.
One of the greatest gifts we can offer our children is to prepare for our death, including our children in the process. Nothing morbid about that. We can sit, stand, walk around waiting for Godot, waiting for the inevitable, or we can plan for it.
Following are some of my preparations:
1) In 1982, I had my obituary printed in the Bellingham Herald. The p.s. on my invitation asked my family to spread my ashes over Olivia Newton-John’s ranch; because that’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to her. (The process of making the attempt is a story in itself.)
2) In May 2010, I held my memorial service. I preferred to have 100 people at my live memorial than 1,000 at my dead one. My effort landed me in the “Dear Abby” newspaper column. Her analysis: “Too bad you have to make an ash of yourself to get Olivia’s attention.”
By the way, laughter conquers death. Jesus had the last laugh over sin and death and the grave.
Love is not a feeling. Love is a commitment which includes all the feelings that people feel: sadness, fear, anger, joy, confusion. To keep relationships healthy and growing, we need to share those feelings graciously as they occur, rather than gunny-sacking them and dumping them inappropriately when the other person least suspects. I highly recommend learning the skill of active listening.
About 40 years ago, a therapist gave me permission to think. I had no idea what she meant until years later. What a gift! Instead of my regurgitation of what others said and did, I began to create my own distinct future. Today I have about 1,075 original sayings.
Three of my favorites: All of life is Holy Ground, so watch where you’re stepping. My promise to you: What is the kindest, most loving thing I can say or do at this moment? My hope to receive from you: Please be kind, patient and considerate (pause), I’m on Medicare.
Most of us are fighting tough battles — physical, social, emotional — so along the way, bring joy, truth, kindness, hope, and, yes, laughter. If you have trouble getting started with laughter, look in the mirror.
Instead of making the mirror-gaze a put down, give yourself a huge appreciation and affirmation. We’re all in the same struggling little world.
We need comforting, not criticism; nurturing not rejecting; love, not indifference.
Fill your days with pure laughter and tears — no manipulation allowed. Pass on your faith, hope, love to those you meet along the way — friend or stranger. Begin with a smile, if you begin nowhere else.
Finally, thanks to The Olympian for the privilege and opportunity to share my thinking with you. I had no idea, when I delivered the “Daily” Olympian as a newspaper carrier in the 1940s, that I would ever write a column for The Olympian in the 2010s.
Peace and Joy....
Wayne H. Keller, a retired pastor, is a member of The Olympian’s 2013 Board of Contributors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.