Do kids belong at funerals?

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Everything Doesn’t Happen For A Reason

Thank you Tim Lawrence… your Oct. 20 blog meant so much to me, I had to share it with my readers. 

I emerge from this conversation dumbfounded. I’ve seen this a million times before, but it still gets me every time.

I’m listening to a man tell a story. A woman he knows was in a devastating car accident; her life shattered in an instant. She now lives in a state of near-permanent pain; a paraplegic; many of her hopes stolen.

He tells of how she had been a mess before the accident, but that the tragedy had engendered positive changes in her life. That she was, as a result of this devastation, living a wonderful life.

And then he utters the words. The words that are responsible for nothing less than emotional, spiritual and psychological violence:

Everything happens for a reason. That this was something that had to happen in order for her to grow.

That’s the kind of bullshit that destroys lives. And it is categorically untrue.

It is amazing to me that so many of these myths persist—and that is why I share actionable tools and strategies to work with your pain in my free newsletter. These myths are nothing more than platitudes cloaked as sophistication, and they preclude us from doing the one and only thing we must do when our lives are turned upside down: grieve.

You know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve heard these countless times. You’ve probably even uttered them a few times yourself. And every single one of them needs to be annihilated.

Let me be crystal clear: if you’ve faced a tragedy and someone tells you in any way, shape or form that your tragedy was meant to be, that it happened for a reason, that it will make you a better person, or that taking responsibility for it will fix it, you have every right to remove them from your life.

Grief is brutally painful. Grief does not only occur when someone dies. When relationships fall apart, you grieve. When opportunities are shattered, you grieve. When dreams die, you grieve. When illnesses wreck you, you grieve.

So I’m going to repeat a few words I’ve uttered countless times; words so powerful and honest they tear at the hubris of every jackass who participates in the debasing of the grieving:

Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried. 

These words come from my dear friend Megan Devine, one of the only writers in the field of loss and trauma I endorse. These words are so poignant because they aim right at the pathetic platitudes our culture has come to embody on a increasingly hopeless level. Losing a child cannot be fixed. Being diagnosed with a debilitating illness cannot be fixed. Facing the betrayal of your closest confidante cannot be fixed.

They can only be carried.

I hate to break it to you, but although devastation can lead to growth, it often doesn’t. The reality is that it often destroys lives. And the real calamity is that this happens precisely because we’ve replaced grieving with advice. With platitudes. With our absence.

I now live an extraordinary life. I’ve been deeply blessed by the opportunities I’ve had and the radically unconventional life I’ve built for myself. Yet even with that said, I’m hardly being facetious when I say that loss has not in and of itself made me a better person. In fact, in many ways it’s hardened me.

While so much loss has made me acutely aware and empathetic of the pains of others, it has made me more insular and predisposed to hide. I have a more cynical view of human nature, and a greater impatience with those who are unfamiliar with what loss does to people.

Above all, I’ve been left with a pervasive survivor’s guilt that has haunted me all my life. This guilt is really the genesis of my hiding, self-sabotage and brokenness.

In short, my pain has never been eradicated, I’ve just learned to channel it into my work with others. I consider it a great privilege to work with others in pain, but to say that my losses somehow had to happen in order for my gifts to grow would be to trample on the memories of all those I lost too young; all those who suffered needlessly, and all those who faced the same trials I did early in life, but who did not make it.

I’m simply not going to do that. I’m not going to construct some delusional narrative fallacy for myself so that I can feel better about being alive. I’m not going to assume that God ordained me for life instead of all the others so that I could do what I do now. And I’m certainly not going to pretend that I’ve made it through simply because I was strong enough; that I became “successful” because I “took responsibility.”

There’s a lot of “take responsibility” platitudes in the personal development space, and they are largely nonsense. People tell others to take responsibility when they don’t want to understand.

Because understanding is harder than posturing. Telling someone to “take responsibility” for their loss is a form of benevolent masturbation. It’s the inverse of inspirational porn: it’s sanctimonious porn.

Personal responsibility implies that there’s something to take responsibility for. You don’t take responsibility for being raped or losing your child. You take responsibility for how you choose to live in the wake of the horrors that confront you, but you don’t choose whether you grieve. We’re not that smart or powerful. When hell visits us, we don’t get to escape grieving.

This is why all the platitudes and fixes and posturing are so dangerous: in unleashing them upon those we claim to love, we deny them the right to grieve.

In so doing, we deny them the right to be human. We steal a bit of their freedom precisely when they’re standing at the intersection of their greatest fragility and despair.

No one—and I mean no one—has that authority. Though we claim it all the time.

The irony is that the only thing that even can be “responsible” amidst loss is grieving.

So if anyone tells you some form of get over it, move on, or rise above, you can let them go.

If anyone avoids you amidst loss, or pretends like it didn’t happen, or disappears from your life, you can let them go.

If anyone tells you that all is not lost, that it happened for a reason, that you’ll become better as a result of your grief, you can let them go.

Let me reiterate: all of those platitudes are bullshit.

You are not responsible to those who try to shove them down your throat. You can let them go.

I’m not saying you should. That is up to you, and only up to you. It isn’t an easy decision to make and should be made carefully. But I want you to understand that you can.

I’ve grieved many times in my life. I’ve been overwhelmed with shame and self-hatred so strong it’s nearly killed me.

The ones who helped—the only ones who helped—were those who were there. And said nothing.

In that nothingness, they did everything.

I am here—I have lived—because they chose to love me. They loved me in their silence, in their willingness to suffer with me, alongside me, and through me. They loved me in their desire to be as uncomfortable, as destroyed, as I was, if only for a week, an hour, even just a few minutes.

Most people have no idea how utterly powerful this is.

Are there ways to find “healing” amidst devastation? Yes. Can one be “transformed” by the hell life thrusts upon them? Absolutely. But it does not happen if one is not permitted to grieve. Because grief itself is not an obstacle.

The obstacles come later. The choices as to how to live; how to carry what we have lost; how to weave a new mosaic for ourselves? Those come in the wake of grief. It cannot be any other way.

Grief is woven into the fabric of the human experience. If it is not permitted to occur, its absence pillages everything that remains: the fragile, vulnerable shell you might become in the face of catastrophe.

Yet our culture has treated grief as a problem to be solved, an illness to be healed, or both. In the process, we’ve done everything we can to avoid, ignore, or transform grief. As a result, when you’re faced with tragedy you usually find that you’re no longer surrounded by people, you’re surrounded by platitudes.

What to Offer Instead

When a person is devastated by grief, the last thing they need is advice. Their world has been shattered. This means that the act of inviting someone—anyone—into their world is an act of great risk. To try and fix or rationalize or wash away their pain only deepens their terror.

Instead, the most powerful thing you can do is acknowledge. Literally say the words:

I acknowledge your pain. I am here with you.

Note that I said with you, not for you. For implies that you’re going to do something. That is not for you to enact. But to stand with your loved one, to suffer with them, to listen to them, to do everything butsomething is incredibly powerful.

There is no greater act than acknowledgment. And acknowledgment requires no training, no special skills, no expertise. It only requires the willingness to be present with a wounded soul, and to stay present, as long as is necessary.

Be there. Only be there. Do not leave when you feel uncomfortable or when you feel like you’re not doing anything. In fact, it is when you feel uncomfortable and like you’re not doing anything that you must stay.

Because it is in those places—in the shadows of horror we rarely allow ourselves to enter—where the beginnings of healing are found. This healing is found when we have others who are willing to enter that space alongside us. Every grieving person on earth needs these people.

Thus I beg you, I plead with you, to be one of these people.

You are more needed than you will ever know.

And when you find yourself in need of those people, find them. I guarantee they are there.

Everyone else can go.

Alzheimer’s – the slow death

My Aunt AnClockn has Alzheimer’s. She is the fifth person in our family who is suffering with it.

Even though this is my 5th family member with the disease, it isn’t any easier than it was when my dad died in 1986.

He was the 1st family member to have it – early onset. He died at age 57; buried with full military honors (Lt. Col. Charles Parrish). He was exposed to nuclear testing and Agent Orange during his military career; they say that’s most likely what caused his early onset and early death.

At the time of my father’s death, our family provided a 3 generation genetic bank for the Bryan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, which helped researcher’s worldwide locate and identify the APOE e4 gene. <click the links to learn more>

My grandmother (Ann’s mother), father (Ann’s brother), and Ann’s oldest sister (Aunt Laura) have all passed away.

Ann’s ‘just older’ sister, Peggy, is at the blissfully unaware stage. By that I mean she doesn’t know anyone & no longer speaks or worries about anything. Peggy is lost within her own world now.

Ann is 79, and is well into the disease, but remains cheerful and pleasant to all. When she meets someone, Ann will say – with a big smile on her face, “Hello. My name is Ann and I have Alzheimer’s so I’m going to be repeating myself.”

I bring this up not only to spread the word about Alzheimer’s but to share the opportunities it gave my family; and hopefully someone reading this will benefit from the information.

The advantages of our family’s Alzheimer’s experience is that we’ve learned that time is fleeting and memories are precious.

To help you and your family, I like to offer the following insights to the benefits of The Slow Death.. .

  • My family had the chance to ‘soak up’ each member of our family because we knew their mind and memories would soon be gone.
  • We shared the stories, names & important dates of our past family members; so future generations would know their heritage.
  • We labeled photographs so the names of the people and the event when it was taken wouldn’t be lost to us forever.
  •  We learned how to help them cope with their deteriorating memory by offering them a notebook to write every visit, thought, memory in. And once, they lost the ability to read and write, we kept it for them and read it to them.. repeatedly.
  • We all learned to be more patience than any Parrish ever had before! We are strong willed and outspoken usually, but learned to react more slowly and empathetically with each new challenge.
  • We have all been advocates for Alzheimer’s – participating in studies, Alzheimer’s Walk to Remember
  •  We learned that even with a lot of time to prepare – we never quite were.
  • We talked about funeral wishes… and butterflies, flowers or gifts… a PRICELESS discussion when the time came.
  • We laughed over our proposed Epitaphs..
  • We shared our past losses, things that left a hole in our soul.
  • We ALL have preplanned and paid for our funerals.

To quickly sum it up, we grabbed every moment, every memory, every piece of information and planning ahead for the inevitable while we could. Because as anyone who has gone through A Slow Death of any type they KNOW how fleeting these precious moments are.

HELPFUL LINKS: (if you don’t see what you need, leave me a comment below, I’ll find it for you)

I recommend that you look these up NOW! Don’t delay.. you and your loved ones will be so very grateful you did.

 

 

 

 

 

Filling the Holes in My Soul: Recovering from a Multitude of Losses

Today’s guest blog came from Evergreen Washelli Funeral Home 

They have an excellent blog – I highly recommend it.

CarliBy Carli R. Stewart

It began with the loss of my Grandma at age 7. My family’s silence over the matter was deafening. I was very curious about what ‘death’ meant, so I questioned everything at my Grandma’s funeral. The dimly lit Funeral Home smelt of a musty rose and my mom and dad appeared emotionless, their faces blank and pale. Their forced hugs toward those who attended, seemed heartless even from my 7 year old perspective. In response to my streaming tears and constant questions, my mother offered me a white frosted cookie with hopeful star sprinkles on top. She told me that it would make me feel better, at the same time it shut me up!

I learned quickly to remain silent, while eating to guide myself to a fuller solution. At Age 13, the morning after my best friend Kelly and I had a routine sleepover, I found her dead in her bathtub. She had ingested everything she could get her hands on from her addicted mother’s vault of a medicine cabinet. This was the beginning of an entourage of tragedy that hit me at least once seemingly every year of my life since. Every single time I pictured her lifeless purple body and stringy dirty blonde hair escaping the tub, I turned to the cupboard full of comfort foods to hopefully distract me from this haunting memory invading my mind. Like a bottomless pit, I could never seem to get enough to satisfy this deadly feeling of emptiness from the loss of Kelly. Still, to this day I refer to her as the sister I never had.

Over time, these undeniable pains began to pierce holes in my soul. The subsequent deaths in my family of 2 young cousins throughout my mid-later teens made me the pillar my family would look to for strength. These deaths saw me taking care of the arrangements that all other family members tried to evade. My family members’ inability to function created a pattern where I would stand up and take action, while others simply crumpled.

Because of my love for photography, I began to notice this theme of being the one to call upon when a death occurred within friendships as well. It became all too familiar as loved ones kept dying. I was the one with all the photos of cherished memories for these tragic young deaths that came in waves every year.  From my former years, I always had the urge to talk until I was blue in the face over these deaths. These were the instances where I wasn’t silenced for doing so while putting on a Service to celebrate each life. This would all be fine for a few months until others were more-or-less back on their feet and I could no longer hide my feelings behind the work at hand. I started calling this the 3 Month Rule.

From my experience, the 3 Month Rule is a dooming point in time that seems to come after every death. Once this marker in time strikes, the phone calls and condolences stop. No one wishes to speak or hear of your heart aches anymore. They simply feel that you should have already moved on. So the fight response in me disintegrated and I crashed! As my helpfulness is less needed and I am no longer able to bury myself in the service work of the grieving, the support system behind me fades as well. I became reliant on this 3 Month Rule after so many deaths had been established, so that I could collapse into an eating coma after holding it together for what it seemed a lifetime!

By the age of 18 I took on the world as a natural caregiver, which ultimately lead me to a graduate degree and career in such. While helping others, I found momentary relief from my own losses. But this was just the second of many temporary fixes. My mother based the grief of her own parents from her formative years on workaholism as I grew up. So my mother – my mirror of expertise and so called strength – simply taught me to remain busy and I’d hopefully forget about my sorrow.

I found that helping others had certainly been the most socially acceptable outlet I could find while running away from my own grief. But all the while, I continued eating to fill this emptiness inside. Like most people using this outlet to escape oneself, I ran myself dry and obese! This was ongoing to the extent that I no longer had anything remaining to offer myself at each day’s end. My desire to seek outside of self and choose mentally taxing professions was coupled with the learned belief that if I just keep myself busy, ’Time Will Heal’.

I willingly participated in perfection toward exceptional grades and workaholism, as I found that the admiration by my colleagues, family, and friends for my achievements were ever so delightful. Meanwhile, I was dying on the inside. These spurts of recognition and awards only erased the pain growing in me for mere seconds. Yet I continued to chase it, for even minute relief was better than nothing. Meanwhile, my weight grew to be of such an uncomfortable capacity for my 5’2 small boned body!

I was now 22, just before the finals of my senior year of college, when my brother Blaine died. It continued the spiral effect of incurring losses that I didn’t know how to face. I already had too much left unfinished emotionally, and Blaine’s death only compounded the problem. The pain was far too immense to even catch my breath. I’d begun to link his death and all preceding deaths to their common denominator: me.  I no longer allowed others into my bubble for fear that their contact with me would cause them to die as well. Every time I blinked my eyes, I saw the picture of my brother huddled on the floor, with the needle still in his arm. I was told he was found on his hands and knees, as if it were to be a praying position. Somehow, this gave me hope even though I didn’t have a God. Maybe there is something he turned to in his last seconds of life?

Once again, I played the pillar. I aced my finals, then drove the six and a half hours to take over as sole proprietor of my brother’s funeral arrangements. The slide show for his Memorial spoke wonders to his early life. But out of the 4 boxes of childhood memories, I couldn’t find one picture of him smiling after the age of seven. My father was increasingly hard on my brother from that age on for reasons I found out much after Blaine’s death. Blaine did everything that was done to him, unto me. This revelation created a whirlwind of hurt and revenge for my father after hearing the intimate details of certain events. Out of haste, upon learning of these truths after the Funeral, my father set everything my brother owned on fire in the bonfire out back.

A decade had passed since Kelly’s passing. And time seemed to encroach more holes in the space I feel is my soul. I was an ever-struggling, hopeless shell of a woman. But I truly felt that there was something missing, I just had no clue what it was! I continued to displace my energy into modes of distraction, which further led to mass destruction of my body, mind, and soul!

I finally had had enough of the discomfort and humiliation of my weight, so I threw myself into working out and partying with the same abandon with which I’d been overeating before. I was treating the symptom instead of the condition, though I didn’t know it at the time.  The vain superficiality of it all did do wonders—I slimmed down and surrounded myself with people at all times—but at night I couldn’t sleep. I turned the music up to drown out the noise in my head. You see, the committee in my head reigned over my every move. When all fell silent and I was alone with myself I was so uncomfortable in my own skin that I wanted to scream. I wanted to quite literally tear off my skin, just to show my internal suffering that no one else could see!

The alcohol, I found to be another way to self forget. With this method of escapism, it sure created a false sense of feeling ok. Well, in the beginning that is. When the party stopped, I never did. These behaviors slowly took precedence over hitting the gym while instead choosing hard alcohol as my daily nutritious intake. Mountains of sorrow began to unveil. I was almost relieved to have found a way to unleash my wrath of emotions without the feeling of repercussion or embarrassment by my speaking of it. This became quite the pattern of after work behavior. I would resort to an establishment revolved around drinking to over-dramatize my several losses during bouts of the drink! My reminiscent discussions over people already gone, soon turned to waterfalls of tears and victim-like despair. I still awoke, EMPTY. I was never refueled as I thought I would be after yet another cry spell.

By this time I was 27 years old and lived in a world of anguish, for I could not even open the drapes each morning. I had since released any glimmer of hope to see a light again at the end of the tunnel. Not knowing that the tunnel was the illusion all along. Now unemployed, I channeled my depression to social media and watching consecutive series all in one sitting on Netflix. While mindlessly searching Facebook one night I learned of the death of a young quadriplegic man I use to care for. He’d died months before and not one person thought to call me. I was no longer the pillar people called on for strength—that realization was crushing.

One day shortly thereafter, I was compelled to walk into Half Priced Books. This felt strange to me, as I was always a skimmer throughout college, rather than a reader and would not normally be urged to go into any bookstore. The gift of desperation caused me to look for answers in places that felt outside of my comfort zone. While inside, I turned around and saw a book – plain and cream colored—yet it seemed to jump out at me as though it had colors blasting from it’s every essence! A halo-like appearance surrounded it, summoning “Pick Me!” written as the title!

I picked it up and opened the tattered cover. On the title page was a handwritten inscription. It read, “Dad, this book helped me find peace over Blaine’s Death. I sincerely hope you will someday become willing to find forgiveness in your heart for him. Love, Carleen.” I dropped to my knees in disbelief. My brother’s name, a father unable to forgive his son, a name just a few letters off from my own… Needless to say, I read the whole book in one sitting. I didn’t even notice the cold linoleum floor below me in the aisle of that bookstore. As I was engaged in my reading, the people passing by felt like gusts of wind from angel wings. I could not wait to turn the next page to soak up more of a different way to thinking, acting, and whole-hearted living. I became acutely aware of just how ill prepared I was in dealing with the conflicting emotions revolving around each independent death and how it affected me to such an inner core, that it ruled my every waking existence!  Each subsequent death struck deeper and deeper until the clutter of rage and fear ruled my life.

This book, titled the “Grief Recovery Handbook” changed my entire perspective on death in general. I finally faced the facts that I would do anything to run away from my grief, rather than work through it in strides. Up until that point, I had a set of learned beliefs about death, chief among them that “Time Will Heal,” and I could not fathom that there actually be a different way in dealing with loss. I learned to first question what I always believed to be true. My problem all along began with my thinking.  In order to polish myself to a clean slate, I had to actually take note of what my automatic thoughts were throughout each day, to acknowledge and replace them.  Repetition became new habits. I learned to accept my feelings fully, without judging them as good or bad. Feelings have a stubborn habit of resurfacing, if denied or hidden away. Feeling the pain is an essential part of growing beyond unresolved grief.

Over time, the transformation was so slow, that I did not truly see how incredibly inner-changed I had become until the next catastophy struck me like a ton of bricks! My mother was hit head on by a drunk driver on a cold, rainy January evening as she headed home from work. This was thankfully after I had begun my journey toward healing from loss. The now, 30 year old me took full reigns of the situation at hand in a far different light than ever before! I chose to let go, and let God. The prayer chains that went out for my mother were miraculous! The book speaks nothing of a God if I recall correctly. But it was most certainly a means to a belief system in something far greater than myself. With this concept of belief, I found peace in even the most cataclysmic of situations since.

I found peace with death. I fully believe today that loss is an opportunity for spiritual development. I now get to claim my circumstances, instead of my circumstances claiming me and my happiness! I’ve built an identity that includes these losses, while channeling the enormous amount of energy learnt to now help others. There no longer exists a 3 Month Rule of my understanding. I embrace the only thing constant in a spiritual way of life, which is change. I even found myself grateful for every single day that I get to remain in this life. It brings me comfort to believe that death is only a continuation date, preparing you for your next journey! So don’t count the days, make the days count!  It’s important to note that there is no correct way through sorrow. The only correct thing is that one finds their path and embarks on that journey to wellness, whatever that may be for them.

As you see, this book quite literally went on to save my life! It was my journey to wellness. So I write today, not to share a story of hardship. But rather – my embrace to live with a soul so full – that I’m constantly overflowing with the power of healing for others! I challenge you to look inside to your own unresolved grief and seek like-minded individuals to work through any necessary losses. As you can clearly see from my personal experience, One thing is for Certain, Time Does Not Heal. You do! It takes action! For it is what you choose to do within the time, that will make you or break you.

You may also find https://www.griefrecoverymethod.com to be a helpful resource.

Death with Dignity or Sucide?

I’m sure you’ve heard the debate over whether or not Brittany Manard’s decision to end her life when she decides that she no longer has any quality of life, is a burden, etc.

The debate online has my head spinning.

“When people criticize me for not waiting longer, or, you know, whatever they’ve decided is best for me, it hurts,” she says, “because really, I risk it every day, every day that I wake up.”

I honestly don’t know how I’d feel or what I would do if I had received medical news similar to hers.

I do know this:

  • my thoughts and prayers are with her and her family as they all go through this unimaginably difficult time
  • her story has me celebrating each day and I appreciate her brave reminder to treasure each and every day
  • my heart breaks for what people are saying about her instead of just loving her, and hurting along side her and praying for her

Brittany Maynard’s right to die  video

Brittany Maynard, terminally ill woman on decision to die: Now ‘doesn’t seem like the right time’

By Catherine E. Shoichet
(CNN) — Brittany Maynard says she hasn’t decided yet when she’ll end her life, but it’s a decision she’s still determined to make.

“I still feel good enough and I still have enough joy and I still laugh and smile with my family and friends enough that it doesn’t seem like the right time right now,” Maynard says in a video released to CNN on Wednesday. “But it will come, because I feel myself getting sicker. It’s happening each week.”

Courtesy: Brittany Maynard

Maynard says she has stage IV glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive form of terminal brain cancer. In April, she says, doctors gave her six months to live.

The 29-year-old Oregon woman’s story spread rapidly on social media after she revealed her plans to take medication to end her life. A video explaining her choice has garnered more than 8.8 million views on YouTube. And she’s become a prominent spokeswoman for the “death with dignity” movement, which advocates that terminally ill patients be allowed to receive medication that will let them die on their own terms. She’s also become a lightning rod for criticism from people who oppose that approach.

In her latest statement, a nearly six-minute video produced and released by end-of-life choice advocacy group Compassion & Choices, Maynard acknowledges that some have been skeptical about her story.

“When people criticize me for not waiting longer, or, you know, whatever they’ve decided is best for me, it hurts,” she says, “because really, I risk it every day, every day that I wake up.”

Compassion & Choices spokesman Sean Crowley declined CNN’s request to speak with Maynard’s doctors, saying they “prefer to remain anonymous for now because opponents of death with dignity sometimes harass doctors who write aid-in-dying prescriptions.”

Maynard says her health has been getting worse. She describes a recent “terrifying” day when she had two seizures and found herself unable to say her husband’s name.

“I think sometimes people look at me and they think. ‘Well you don’t look as sick as you say you are,’ which hurts to hear, because when I’m having a seizure and I can’t speak afterwards, I certainly feel as sick as I am,” she says, her voice cracking as she tears up.

When she first started speaking out about her decision, Maynard said she planned to take the medication she’d been prescribed in early November. In her latest video, she says she’s still waiting to see how her symptoms progress before deciding on a date.

But taking too long to make that choice is now one of her greatest fears, Maynard says in the video.

“The worst thing that could happen to me is that I wait too long because I’m trying to seize each day,” she says, “but I somehow have my autonomy taken away from me by my disease because of the nature of my cancer.”

National campaign

Compassion & Choices says the latest video, which was recorded on October 13 and 14, is part of a campaign “to expand access to death with dignity in California and other states nationwide.”

Maynard was living in California when doctors diagnosed her with brain cancer.

“We had to uproot from California to Oregon, because Oregon is one of only five states where death with dignity is authorized,” she said in an opinion column she wrote for CNN earlier this month.

Oregon, Washington and Vermont have “death with dignity” laws that allow terminally ill, mentally competent residents to voluntarily request and receive prescription drugs to hasten their death. Judicial decisions in Montana and New Mexico authorize doctors to prescribe fatal drug doses in such circumstances, although the rulings haven’t become state law.

Now, changing that has become part of Maynard’s mission.

“My goal, of course, is to influence this policy for positive change. And I would like to see all Americans have access to the same health care rights,” she says in her latest video.

But she says she’s also focused on simpler goals.

“They mostly do boil down to my family and friends and making sure they all know how important they are to me and how much I love them,” she says.

Family supports her decision

The video also includes statements from Maynard’s family. Her mother, Debbie Ziegler, says she supports her daughter.

“It’s not my job to tell her how to live, and it’s not my job to tell her how to die,” she says. “It’s my job to love her through it.”

Her husband, Dan Diaz, says they’re taking things day by day.

“That’s the only way to get through this. You take away all of the material stuff, all the nonsense that we all seem to latch onto as a society,” he says, “and you realize that those moments are really what matter.”

Last week, Maynard visited the Grand Canyon — a trip she described as the last item on her bucket list.

Photos on her website showed her and her husband standing on the edge of the canyon, hugging and kissing. In the video, Maynard says she’s hoping her mother and husband will be able to bounce back after her death.

“I understand everyone needs to grieve, but I want him to be happy, so I want him to have a family,” she says. “And I know that might sound weird, but there’s no part of me that wants him to live out the rest of his life just missing his wife, so I hope he moves on and becomes a father.”

Debate over ‘death with dignity’

The so-called “death with dignity” movement is opposed by many religious and right-to-life groups, which consider it assisted suicide.

And Maynard’s decision has drawn criticism from some religious leaders.

“We believe she’s made in the image of God, we believe that God determined when she would be born and God should determine when she’s going to die,” Dave Watson, pastor of Calvary Chapel of Staten Island, told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin earlier this month. “I certainly sympathize. And when I read the story, I prayed for the woman and her family. I can’t imagine the agony for a decision like this. But I don’t think that necessarily we’re saying the right things about death.”

What if Maynard had showed a gun in her video, instead of a pill bottle, he asked.

Philip Johnson, a Catholic seminarian who says he was also diagnosed with incurable brain cancer, criticized Maynard’s choice.

“A diagnosis of terminal cancer uproots one’s whole life, and the decision to pursue physician-assisted suicide seeks to grasp at an ounce of control in the midst of turmoil,” he wrote in a column posted on the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh’s website. “It is an understandable temptation to take this course of action, but that is all that it is — a temptation to avoid an important reality of life.”

But polls have shown that most Americans support having a say in how they die, especially if the process is described not as doctors helping a patient “commit suicide” but as ending a patient’s life “by some painless means.”

“I think there is something of a movement here,” Arthur Caplan, professor of bioethics at NYU’s Langone Medical Center, told CNN’s Don Lemon earlier this month. “When you push Americans to say, ‘Do you want choice on this matter?’ I think a lot of them are going to say yes.”

Caplan said Maynard’s first video speaking out about her decision raised some concerns.

“I wouldn’t want her to feel pressure that she had to do it because she just told us all she was going to,” he said.

Maynard has stressed that she isn’t suicidal.

“If all my dreams came true, I would somehow survive this,” she says in her latest video, “but most likely, I won’t.”

CNN’s Brandon Griggs and Ralph Ellis contributed to this report.

Trademark and Copyright 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved

Simulating Death

According to a story by CNN “We’ve all wondered what it’s like to die. Now there’s a game that claims it can fulfill our curiosity, without actually killing us.”

I did say that some of my posts would be humorous, some factual, thought-provoking, and indeed – some will be just plain weird. If you clicked on the link to the article, did you notice that it was under travel? It seems that this one definitely falls into the just plain weird category. . . or does it?

Read on…….

A new theme park opened this past September in China. One of the rides is a “death simulator”. A DEATH SIMULATOR? My first thought was “How?”  Is the entrance to the ride a long tunnel filled with bright white lights? Do you reach the end of the tunnel and a shimmering white figure speaks to you, helping you review your life – what you’ve done, how you’ve done it, and to whom? Does it end with an ascent or a descent?

The how is, of course, impossible. But how did they research what to do? What type of experience did they develop?

Life and death

Ding and his partner Huang Wei-ping went to great lengths researching their game, investigating the cremation process that typically awaits 50% of Chinese people after death.

The pair visited a real crematorium and asked to be sent through the furnace with the flames turned off.

“Ding went in the crematory first and it was stressful for me to observe from the outside,” says Huang.

“The controller of the crematory was also very nervous; he usually just focuses on sending bodies in, but not on bringing them back out.”

When it came to Huang’s turn, he found it unbearable.

“It was getting really hot. I couldn’t breathe and I thought my life was over,” he said.

The pair say realism is essential to provoke participants into thinking about life and death.

The why was quickly answered once I read several articles regarding this thrill (?) ride.

CNN: We’ve all wondered what it’s like to die. Now there’s a game that claims it can fulfill our curiosity, without actually killing us.

Business Insider: The creators were motivated to build the game, which was first shown at an exhibition of social enterprises at Gongyi Xintiandi in Shanghai, following their own individual periods of “soul searching”.

My curiosity got hold of me and I did more searching to find out how common this is. Are there others who are simulating death experiences to make you think about life?

A scroll on the wall read “If you don’t know death, how will you know life?” (pictured above) Jia stepped into one of the coffins and sat down. The room was permeated with a sad melody. Jia was given 15 minutes to write down her “last words” on a piece of paper.

Then, she lay on her back in the coffin, her face covered by a piece of thin, white cloth. The coffin was closed. After five minutes in darkness and silence, the lid was opened and Jia experienced a “rebirth.”

All of this took place at Lingxin Culture and Communication Company (3/F, Bldg 1, 18 Wuwei Road East, 6111-2894). The company claims to be the first on the Chinese mainland to offer such a “death experience” to the public. It began trialling the experiences in April, and so far more than 100 people have taken part.

My most intimate experience with dying was with my mother the last year of her life. As I watched her health, but never her spirits, fade we chatted about many things. I asked her many questions during that year:

  • What were her favorite memories?
  • What was the most important advice she had for me?
  • Did she have any regrets, disappointments, things she’d like to change?
  • Had I made her proud?
  • Was she afraid?

It seems from all that was written above, the experience of death’ allows each of us to do some soul-searching. And if you are still breathing and reading this, then you DO know ahead of time. We are all in the process of dying, so think about it. Talk about it. Discuss it with your family. Laugh, share, love, forgive. . .  tempus fugit!

Referenced: CNN, Business Insider and Global Times

Music soothes the soul, and the grieving heart

I’ve been thinking about funeral music lately. The songs played at funerals while photos of the person’s life are being shown.  Why was that particular song selected? What meaning does it have that perhaps only a few of the visitors know?

For instance:

Standing around my mother’s grave, my family sang “Leaving on a Jet Plane”  Not a normal selection indeed, but it was a song that we all knew and sang together anytime the family gathered for any reason. The guitars would come out, someone would start playing it.. and we’d all join in. Singing the family favorites. Leaving on a Jet Plane, Family Tradition, Sloop John B, I Walk the Line and many, many others.

So on that very sad day – ALL of us…. standing around my mother’s fresh grave right next to my daddy’s grave, and filled with sadness & grief … well, we did what we always did. . . .

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The guitars came out and we just started singing.

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When we thought of the words, “I’m leaving on a jet plane” we started looking sideways at each other and smiling. Soon, we were giggling. What a send off!!

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Then we got quiet/  One by one we started placing flowers on her grave. We held each other. We cried while looking around at our family.. our big crazy family… and knew that Lt. Col Charles & Mrs. Doris Parrish would be pleased.

parrish family  The Parrish family.

I’m curious…. what songs have you chosen for your funeral?

My choices, so far, are “In My Life” by the Beatles, and “What a Wonderful Life” by Louis Armstrong.  And both my kids know this.

 

**Note – I do not own any copyright to any of the attached videos. I shared the links from YouTube.