Death surrounds me. When I was doing my internship, my clinical instructor used to read the obituaries. She told me, “You just wait…when you are a therapist, if you work in a setting with older adults, you will read the obituaries too.” Five years later, I actually read the obituaries. I have both hated and enjoyed reading about one of my former patient’s passing. I have cut their obituary out of the paper, tucked it into my scrub pocket, and carried their 400-word blurb into work to share with my colleagues.
Nursing homes can be a pretty eerie place to work. The smells and sounds have most people running for the hills. I have had long walks down the corridors, only to find out that one of my patient’s expired. I hate that word, expire. It reminds me of milk…
Death is apart of my husband’s job, too, as he is a police officer. When he gets home, a conversation can go something like:
“How was your day?”
“Great. I had a young couple overdose on heroin. How was your day?”
“Great. One of my patients died…they didn’t make it to the hospital.”
12:34. That is my Grandma’s signal for everything being in order…When she died, she would wake us up at 12:34 AM. Whenever I catch 12:34, I say, “Hi, Grandma!”
The foster puppies… I usually foster the older dogs, but I will hear that one or two of the puppies didn’t make it because of Parvo or some other illness. Dog rescue is not for the faint of heart. Very, very depressing.
Make sure you have your wishes in order. If you don’t already have one, make sure you have a will, power of attorney, and healthcare proxy. I have noticed that while working in a nursing home, it is really important that you have your stuff together and legalized to prevent any problems.
The past two weeks were very challenging. I went to two wakes, which made me think about my life.
If I died tomorrow…
- Put me in a bio-degradable coffin and bury me in the ground. I am an environmentalist. Coffins are expensive and don’t decompose. Grow a tree, or plant flowers near me. Come visit me; talk to me, keep me posted on what is going on in your life. Cover me with a flannel blanket during the winter and place flip-flops on my grave in the summertime. Leave pictures of your travels and talk to me. I will be there for you.
- Play good music during my wake. Play Trevor Hall, Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone. I don’t want to listen to elevator music, and neither do you. Don’t make it a super sappy event. I don’t want that. Cry, but talk about the good stuff. Laugh. Smile. It will be okay.
- Dress me in anything royal blue and a fresh pair of sneakers. Comfortable is my favorite word when it comes to fashion.
- Have pictures of Jason, my family, friends, and Bailey with me. I felt the most beautiful on my wedding day so include some mementos from that day. Replay my wedding video on a television. Put some pictures of the foster dogs I helped save. I know I will continue to rescue dogs in Heaven.
- Make sure I have the Italian horns and hands with me; they will protect me and ward away any evil on my travels from earth to Heaven.
- Flowers die. While beautiful, I rather you donate money to the rescue organization. The dogs need it more than I will.
- At my repast, drink, eat, and be merry. This too shall pass. You will be fine and so will I.
I snap. I blink. I take a breath. Death could happen in that one, single second. I could get into an accident, fall down the stairs, or lightening could strike me dead. Boom. Lights out. Game over. Thanks for playing. It’s a crazy concept, isn’t it?
I try to live every day to the fullest. Sometimes, if my husband and I are discussing a big purchase, we will turn to one another and say, “YOLO!” as our reminder that we have ONE shot in life. Buy the item on your wish list. Get the manicure. Eat the brownie. When we wake up to see another day, we are truly blessed. The harsh reality is that death could be a moment away…
Death is a hard topic for some people to discuss. I leave you with some thoughts; If you were to die tomorrow, do people know what you want? Your desires and wishes? Would they know how you feel about them? Would you have lived to be your best self?