Memorial Day Weekend, Lake Whatcom
The other day, as I was driving, I listened to a program on NPR in which the speaker recounted his mother’s unexpected death in surgery. In going through her possessions, the family found a letter she’d written to them, to be read in the event that anything ever happened to her. In the letter she told her husband how much he meant to her. She expressed her love, hopes and dreams for each of her children, and said she’d be watching and loving the grandchildren she would someday have, even after she wasn’t physically with them.
Hearing about that letter reminded me of a class I took in graduate school, on grief and loss. I was training to become a nurse practitioner and planned to work in oncology, so taking the class seemed like the thing to do. It may have even been required – I can’t remember. It was only a few years after I completed cancer treatments, and every aspect of the class was heavy duty for me. We had to make wills and get them notarized. We completed a Durable Power of Attorney, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, and a Health Care Directive. We learned about the elements that a condolence letter should contain, and then had to write one. We planned funeral services for ourselves, and wrote our own obituary. I hated doing all of it.
I was pregnant with Abbott at the time I took that class. Alexi and I had not yet made a will, so it was good to be forced to do it. We had to decide on guardians and custodians to name for unborn Abbott. I listed which of my grandmothers’ possessions my sister and brother could have, and which I wanted set aside for my children. I indicated that my recipes and cookbooks were to stay in my family. I left something for each of my friends – a favorite scarf, a pair of earrings, a beloved book.
After listening to the broadcast, I rummaged to find the funeral service and the obituary I’d written for myself. More than ten years later, I’m still the same person in so many ways. “Lecia met her husband, Alexi Phinney, in 1997… They enjoyed traveling, hiking, and preparing meals together, and opening their home to friends… Lecia loved her husband deeply and admired him for his dedication to being a husband and father, and for his kindness, generosity, intelligence, humor, and gift as a photographer…Lecia was particularly inspired in her adult life by her grandmothers…Her friendships were sustaining and nurturing to her throughout her life….”
At that point in time, I couldn’t get comfortable with preparing to die, and I couldn’t think about being dead. A couple of years ago a friend turned fifty, and as she told me about the celebration she’d had and reflected on her life up to that point, she said she was looking forward to her last twenty or so years of living. I was shocked to hear her say it; I corrected her and told her she still had as much as half her life to live. But the older I get, the more I see how a person could become ready; look to it off in the future without fear. I’m not there yet, but as I age and live and experience things, I know I’ll get there.