I have had the honor of working with people who had or have life limiting conditions. When I was prearranging a funeral for a client who had been given a serious diagnosis, he decided to get his affairs in order. Widowed, he called an old sweetheart and found that she was not in a relationship. He shared how special she was to him and invited her on a cruise, all expenses paid and no strings attached.
He arranged for a friend to finish out the lease on his luxury automobile. He arranged the monetary inheritance for his family members. He wanted his funeral luncheon to be at the racetrack. I remember thinking that some people who get devastating news just want to curl up in the fetal position. This guy was an inspiration to me! I felt a shift in my thinking and in how I perceived things. This man acknowledged the reality of his situation; he got his affairs in order, told the people he cared about how and why they meant so much to him. He seemed to be having fun in the process of being of service to others and saying goodbye.
Another client wanted me to write her eulogy and organize her end-of-life wishes. She figured that her husband and adult son would be so sad when she died that it would be difficult for them to make important decisions. So in her mind, this prearranged funeral was a gift that she was giving to her family. She was surprised to realize that the process was actually very empowering for her. When she received a serious autoimmune diagnosis at a fairly young age, she focused on helping her family while she was still able. She later realized that this made her feel like she had some control over something significant at a time when her life felt so out of control.
Another lady I had the pleasure of helping had a very demanding, perfectionist demeanor. Her reputation preceded her; sales clerks looked fearful when she approached and they immediately summoned the manager to deal with her. I saw this side of her, but I also saw another side. I knew that she had lost the love of her life when her beloved husband died. At that time, she made a conscious decision that she would go on without him, that she would live her life fully until it was her time to die.
We are multifaceted, like a precious diamond. Our family knows some facets, our co-workers other facets, and friends know yet another facet. As we authentically live our life, these facets blend into something precious.
As you experience the holidays, I encourage you to honor your loss, to embrace helpful rituals, to use your gifts in service to others and to reflect on what you learned from this painful experience. Then decide how you want to live your life going forward.