2018 - August - Gazette - Plan Ahead
In March of 2017, a group of us sat in a circle together at the Bellefonte Senior Resource Center and talked about death. We talked about the history of our perceptions about death. We talked about how our faith in medicine has changed our feelings about death. We talked about why we don’t usually talk about death. We talked about myths about death, where most Americans would prefer to die and where they actually do die, lessons from the dying and their top regrets. We shared our own personal experiences with death. And we talked about how having an awareness of death helps us to live more fully now. At its conclusion, the participants said they were encouraged, grateful, hope-filled and thankful for the stories shared. This was all in our first gathering together.
Over the next several weeks, we learned from a hospice nurse and chaplain, an elder law attorney and a funeral director. We talked about what happens as we die, appropriate legal documents, spiritual aspects of death and dying, writing eulogies and obituaries, bucket lists, instructions to the funeral director, companioning yourself and others through grief, memorialization and Having the Talk of a Lifetime. The participants continued to express gratitude, courage, relief for answered questions, preparedness and calm feelings. Our goals for the series were to learn about dying, death and grief, get to know one another and support each other along the way. From the feedback, these goals were realized. And all of this was from planning ahead for death.
In our culture, many people fear death. Some of this has to do with the fact that it is often hidden from us. In previous centuries, deaths were more sudden, without much warning and in our homes. Today, deaths most frequently occur in older adults after a long-term illness and in an institution – creating a need to have conversations about it.
When I talk to people who’ve companioned those actively dying, I’ve heard words like sacred, beautiful, positive experience. These words are many times from people who did their homework – they learned about death themselves and they learned what the desires of the dying person were.
I had the incredible honor of being invited to the bedside of a dying woman, mother, grandmother and friend. Her family knew her wishes and what to expect as she died. They had an appreciation for the significance of this time. It was a sad but profound and transformative experience.
Our society offers many classes and programs to help couples and families learn about what happens during birth and pregnant women the chance to express their desires in advance. Why don’t we do the same around death? Through the support of several individuals and organizations, we do:
- Living Fully Now, Wednesday mornings, September 5 through November 14, 2018 (excluding October 31, 2018) from 10:00 a.m. - Noon (including lunch) at the Centre Region Active Adult Center, 2901 E. College Avenue, #990, State College(located in the Nittany Mall) - You are invited to learn about Living Fully Now by attending to issues surrounding death and dying. Topics include: myths and perceptions, what happens as we die, bucket lists, eulogies, companioning ourselves and others through grief, and many more. You’re encouraged but not required to attend all sessions.
RSVP at 814-231-3076 by Friday the week before the class.
- Live, Love, Learn and Leave a Legacy, Thursday evenings, September 13 through October 11, 2018 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Centre Region Active Adult Center, 2901 E. College Avenue, #990, State College (located in the Nittany Mall) - Stephen Covey once said, "There are four needs in all people: to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy." In this series, we will learn about and explore these four needs while preplanning some of what we can for our own deaths.
- Week 1, LIVE – With death as a reminder of the importance of making the most of life, how do you want to LIVE now?
- Week 2, LOVE – When you think about your own death, how do you want to care for those you LOVE after you're gone?
- Week 3, LEARN – What do you still need to LEARN about estate planning? Are there items you can attend to now?
- Week 4, LEAVE – If circumstances allow, are there certain ways you would like to be cared for as you LEAVE this world?
- Week 5, LEGACY – Upon your death, how do you want your LEGACY to begin? How do you want to be remembered and your life honored?
RSVP at 231-3076 by Friday the week before the class.
- Monday’s Moments Complimentary Luncheon – “Plan Ahead” Tuesday, September 4 from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott, 1730 University Drive, State College – Depending on the circumstances surrounding the death of a loved one, you may or may not have been exposed to certain lessons. People who work with the dying say they have much to teach the living. At this gathering, we'll discuss the importance of planning ahead and heeding these lessons.
RSVP at 814-404-0546 or Jackie@JackieHook.com or on the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page by August 29. Please note this Monday's Moments will be held on a Tuesday this month.
These events are open to the public and space is limited. For additional information, please visit the Koch Funeral Home website’s Community Outreach page.
As you consider whether you want to participate in one of these programs, hear these words from author and teacher, Frank Ostaseski, “Death is not waiting for us at the end of a long road. Death is always with us, in the marrow of every passing moment. She is the secret teacher hiding in plain sight. She helps us to discover what matters most.”
Jackie Hook, MA, is a spiritual director and celebrant. She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College. For more information, please call 814-237-2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com. Support for some of the above programs also provided by the Active Adult Center, ACAP – Adult Children of Aging Parents, Centre County Government’s Office of Aging, Grane Hospice and Koch Funeral Home.