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What is Your Testament?

by Guest Blogger Chris Putnam

I awoke this morning to complete at least twenty-five tasks before passing out this evening fully exhausted. Somewhere I will fit in a passing kiss for my wife and try to graze my kids with a peck on the forehead or a sideways hug before sending them to the shower and finally to bed. The routine will end after a few reminders and maybe even a few threats to get them to sleep. To credit my wife and I, we do read to our three-year-old before the battle begins to get him asleep every night.

Many of the people reading this blog know I am a funeral director and many have sat with me describing a loved one who recently died. Over the last couple decades, I have heard “he was a hard worker” or “she was dedicated to her job or civic organization” countless times. When I follow up with a second question about hobbies or experiences of which the individual was proud, I am met with a “it was always about work” or “he/she did not fish, travel, hunt, read, etc.” Nothing! Loved ones cannot think of anything except how serious non-family commitments were prioritized over internal family commitments.

The prompt to write this blog post is inspired by two women in different situations. Top Chef contestant and star Fatima Ali announced this week she only has a year to live with or without new chemotherapy treatment. Ali, 29, recently wrote “I was looking forward to being 30, flirty and thriving. Guess I have to step it up on the flirting. I have no time to lose.” She continues by describing a desperate need to “overload my senses in the coming months, … and smothering my family, giving them the time that I so selfishly guarded before.”

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations announced Nikki Haley her resignation this week.  She offered no reason for the life change other than the perspective that government officials must know “when it’s time to step aside.” Clues to her future are known only by her, but she told President Trump about six months ago she wanted to take a break. Haley referred to herself in the Oval Office resignation interview as “a private citizen.”

One can only speculation how long Haley’s break will last, as the political door remains open. My wish for Haley is to live like she is dying without the dying part. To “overload her senses” as Ali described. My hope for Ali is a treatment or miracle will happen and this all turns out to be a lesson on life perspectives and what is truly important.

Both women are teachers coaching us on how to use time.  What will they say about you? What is your testament? The regret of being self-absorbed and selfish with time is short-lived only when an end of time is in sight.  However, being generous with time and living for yourself, friends, and loved ones is a gift that is priceless.  Maybe a description I hear about you is “he knew when it was time to step aside” or “she was flirty and thriving when 30 and overloaded her senses with every breath.”

©2018 Putnam Funeral Home and Crematory, LLC

Life Affirming Conversations

End of life conversations can be intimidating and difficult, but that doesn’t have to be the case.  In changing our perspective, we realize that in fact these are conversations that result in life affirming decisions.  By writing down our preferences, we control our right to choose what happens at the end.  Engaging in these conversations and decisions is an act of love, as you are ensuring that your family does not have to guess what you want when you are no longer in a position to communicate.  Making a plan, and engaging your family in it as you know best, will go far in reducing stress and anxiety when your loved ones have to make decisions that impact you.

So what kind of decisions?

Well, who will be your Medical Power of Attorney and/or your Statutory Durable Power of Attorney?  Have you created an Advanced Directive or an Out-of-Hospital DNR?  If you are not comfortable starting these conversations with your family, then you have another option – in 2016 Medicare approved payment for end of life conversations with your physician. Or, you can use the opportunity of holidays and evening dinners to organically start the conversation with your family by just asking what they envision taking place for themselves at the end of their life.

The same holds true with your wishes regarding your funeral.  Your Power of Attorney expires upon death.  Who will you appoint your Agent of Disposition?  Do you prefer cremation or burial?  These are also important discussions in which to involve your family.  Moreover, you can visit your preferred Funeral Home to document and/or prepay for your chosen services.

While you are alive and healthy, you get to make these choices.  Others can provide input, but it is ultimately your choice.  And by proactively making end of life decisions, you are affirming your life decisions and reducing the stress and anxiety that comes when family members do not know their loved ones preferences.