At my fifty-first birthday dinner our conversation steered around to the topic of death! Hmmmm….  Not sure how that happened but since all but two of our guests were in our second halves of life, it makes sense.

My chaplain friend Ruth Clayton, who has specialized in hospice and palliative care work, recommended The Conversation Project as a resource.

Growing up with a mother gifted and called to the spiritual work of burying the dead and who worked professionally as a probate attorney, death was not feared in my home. We attended the rosaries and funerals of dead relatives from the time we were old enough to sit still for an hour. I remember viewing the dead bodies of my Great Aunt Floss, Great Aunt Blanche, Uncle Bob, Uncle Jimmy and others. Death was normalized as a part of life. People cried, but also honored death as a joyous passing to another stage of life.  Not the end of life, but the beginning of another form of life.

My mom planned well for her death. She never wanted to be a financial burden on us kids.  After all the insurance policies were cashed out and the bills were paid, the final accounting of all her cash resources left her with only a few thousand dollars in the bank.

Me & Mom in a Box 1984 - Remarkable & Silly Mother

I suspect that even in her compromised physical state, her sharp mind was working the numbers, assessing just how much money was left. When she sensed the money running low, she decided it was time to go.

She died a blessed death, surrounded by all three of her children and the ex-husband (my dad) who remained her best friend long after they were no longer married.

The day she died I was at her place waiting with my brothers for the inevitable. Her doctor called in the afternoon and told me that she’d come by the house after an evening meeting. I told my mom, who by that point had stopped talking but remained coherent. She blinked her eyes at me, seeming to understand.

That night, with Dr. Shugie just having arrived, there to sign the death certificate, mom passed peacefully to be with all her beloved ones wherever the souls of the departed go when finished with this leg of their journeys.

As in her living, so in her dying, my mom faced death with preparation and planning. She was a good steward of the life given her. She did the advance work and made it easier on us.

Preparing well for death is an important part of life. It’s part of mindful living. How did your family and communities approach to death and dying impact you? What have you done to have these conversations with your loved ones? Perhaps a visit to The Conversation Project might be a good place to start.