I’m sorry, it’s cancer.
A short life expectancy.
More treatments won’t help.
This is incurable.
Make your final plans.
Your new reality.
At different stages of our lives, we’ve been breathless to hear other little phrases, like:
I love you.
Congratulations on your graduation.
Will you marry me?
It’s a boy.
It’s a girl.
These are just a few of my lifetime memories and those I have loved. What words would you choose to describe your life experiences?
Welcome to my website, and soon-to-be-published book, Your Exit Strategy, Helping Families Plan Your Final Days. I almost titled it: If You Think Living Is Hard, Wait Until You Start Dying, because the advance preparation to “Get your papers in order” is extremely complex and time-consuming.
Your choice is simple: either accept death, whenever it comes, as inevitable; or rage against the injustice, fight till your last breath; subject your body to endless, perhaps futile tests and experimental drugs. Will your family ride the Denial Train with you? Or can you see them wither with grief on the sidelines, devastated by the costs of these heroic efforts? Shouldn’t we assume the right and responsibility to tackle the planning for death as vigorously as we would plan a wedding, a baby shower, or a graduation party? Some would say that dying is your final party, and I’ll be telling you a few good books on this subject.
Like history? In my research I discovered that Victorian influences in England, combined with the enormous loss of life (600,000 casualties) during the Civil War, heavily influenced American funeral and mourning practices. Links for your own investigation are listed below. We’ll see later on how the practice of embalming started during the Civil War because it was expensive (and wasteful) to preserve a soldier’s body with brandy. You’ll be surprised to learn that undertakers were allowed to get officers to pay in advance for embalming and return their bodies to family members, before they joined the battle.
Of course, in 1963, Jessica Mitford’s book, “The American Way of Death,” her expose of the funeral industry stayed on the best-seller list for a year. She started to update this book in 1995, but died the following year. Her husband and assistants finished the book in 1998, The American Way of Death Revisited. Read both of them to see how far we’ve come.