I lost my 64-year-old mother on Saturday 25th February 2017. I knew it was coming. We all did.
On the 28th September 2016 I received the call that has changed my life. Mom had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung and liver cancer. It came from ‘nowhere’ and was aggressive. In that very moment my world fell apart. Suddenly everything became a race against time. Without treatment Mom had 2 weeks left to live and that roulette wheel started to spin. We know that tide and time wait for no man, right?
My Mom Maddie was fiercely independent, she knew what she wanted, always had done. She was pragmatic and accepted the death sentence with grace, dignity, and fortitude. I will always admire her for that. Very rational and accepting, Mom started planning (or so I thought) Mom told me that there was nothing to worry about. I was hesitant to ask questions as I felt reassured by her comments with regards to end of life planning. She told me she would write down passwords, organise accounts so that my Pops would be able to carry on without her with minimal stress. The reality – she ran out of time and passed away 21 weeks and 4 days after she received her diagnosis.
“Don’t think of me as gone away, my journey’s just begun. Life holds so many facets, this earth is only one”
What happened then?
Panic and worry happened. I panic when I look at people and worry that people don’t know about their wishes, their plans, and that their lives are not written down anywhere. I worry that there are things I don’t know about people that are important and I worry that I am unable to tell their story when they are no longer able to. How will I remember their life story when I can barely remember what I did this morning? Who is going to pass on these stories to generations to come? Does anyone really care? How do they want to be remembered?
I believe that when you are gone, you are gone and as much as people’s beliefs in the spiritual and religious realms provide comfort and support, details may always be missing. Some of the pages in our life’s diary are blank and it’s all too late to capture the important facts. For those left behind a lifetime of what if, where is, how do I? Did I do this as expected, did I forget anything? What do I need to know? What would they have liked? What were their wishes? Life is full of regrets of the living without complicating it by having regrets about dying and death.
In helping to organise my mom’s funeral and previously for my grandmother’s and biological father’s funeral, I worried about simply ‘basic’ things in funeral planning but in a moment of complete grief it was highly important to get it right. What colour coffin lining do you want? Embalming or no embalming? What type of funeral? Celebrant or religious leader? What coffin, flowers, songs, hymns, poems, readings, photos, clothing, shoes, type of burial, where are the passwords, where is the bank account, what about superannuation to pay for the funeral, life insurance info, any death benefits to be paid? The questions are endless, but they must be asked; anxiety, restless nights ensued for me, and I craved just one last conversation with my mom so that I had the answers which may have provide me with more comfort and less regret. That conversation will never happen.
I am still unable to think of one other time in my life highly fuelled with emotion that I have had to make so many life changing and potentially regretful decisions – can you?
Since 2017, I have set about finding a way to help myself and others
- I need to make sure that those I leave behind will not have to worry (I have been told that I am a control freak so I might as well get everything organised!)
- I don’t want my loved ones to worry about the clothing I am wearing in my coffin, and I want them to know my passwords and information about my finances
- I want them to know that I am sorry for certain things I have said and done, how I feel about them and what loving them and their love for me means to me
- If I am no longer able to speak for myself, I need them to know what I do and don’t want them to do. I don’t want them wasting any of their precious time on earth wondering, worrying, and questioning decisions. I will take that away and if there are any questions, they may have then I want them to know that “I don’t care about that, so I don’t expect you to either, just make a decision that you are happy with and move on
Having attended a funeral of a close friend who died after a long journey with cancer, leaving behind two adorable school aged boys and a loving husband, I decided that I didn’t want a funeral as I felt that it’s too sad and a massive expense. I said I wanted a party or a holiday on me to have fun, explore, experience, and make new memories. My friends were upset with me, they told me off. They reminded me that a funeral isn’t for my benefit, more for theirs and they wanted to celebrate my life and then party! That’s all good I guess (except the money bit as I hate to see people being ripped off by services especially when people are vulnerable in times of grief!). I could go on, but I won’t!
Welcome to TellThem4Me® and the legacy of my beautiful Mumma Madeline Ann Coles