What’s in a plan?

Some might say that planning and organizing is the way to go. Others, not so much. For instance, is it better to plan our your day, or see where it takes you on its own once you set foot out the door. I mean, even if you plan everything down to the minute, what are the chances you’ll actually keep to that schedule, without the randomness of the day putting roadblocks up along the way? The random detour because of roadwork, or the line at the grocery store because there’s only one register open and someone is physically writing a check (yes, that happened to me the other day). Or the power goes out at home just as you were settling in to watch Frank and Gracie on Netflix (highly recommend it, I might add).

Is it really worth planning anything if we are just going to have those plans subverted by the unknown? More than that, I suppose it’s how we choose to react to these interferences. We can throw our hands up in frustration or we can shrug our shoulders in resignation. Neither will change circumstances, that’s for sure.

I have to say though, that I have come to the realization that planning does matter…for certain things. In fact, I feel it is truly important for these things. Specifically, planning for the end of your life. I know, you figured I’d get around to that eventually because, gee, this is a blog being written by a hospice chaplain. Duh! So I do feel end of life planning is important. And not so much so that we individually get what we want at the end of our lives, but so that those who love us have at least some basic understanding of how to get through it all.

We all float through our lives assuming that once we die, that’s it, case closed. For many though, that’s not it. There’s the physical body which still needs attending to. Where does it go? Who is responsible for it? I’ve spent quite a bit of time on the phone tracking down family for deceased person in a hospital morgue. Believe me, that’s not fun. It really makes you think about who in your life actually cares about you. Once you’ve called 5 people and no one is willing to provide a funeral, it really makes you wonder.

I mean, I don’t think that at the age of 30 you should be contacting a funeral home and making final arrangements, but at some point, it’s a worthy thing to accomplish. My husband and I have had our burial plots for at least the last 15 years, and, God willing, I’ll still be around for at least the next 30 years. We also have life insurance for ourselves and our children – each since they were born. Life takes unexpected twists and turns, and we decided we wanted to at least be prepared financially should anything happen.

But many people don’t do these things. They leave it up to others because it’s easier than thinking and taking responsibility. Just talk to any widow or widower who lost their spouse unexpectedly and had never had a conversation about death or prepared in any way. The cost of a burial or cremation is huge, and to have to think about all of that at a time when you’re in shock is devastating.

I’ve said this hundreds of times to my patients and their families: Death is a part of life. We can’t hide from it and we are getting closer to it each and every minute. Why not take the time we have to prepare – even in the smallest of ways – for what is inevitably going to happen. It can be a gift for those you leave behind, and it can bring a small measure of comfort to yourself, knowing you eased the burden once you’re gone. I pray each of you spends just a few moments thinking about those you love who will still be here, and how you felt when those you’ve loved have gone. Peace be to all of you.

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