Happily, Ever After
By Jo Strausz Rosen
Sometimes when I remember my father, I think about how he painstakingly planned his exit strategy. When he was sixty, he invited my brother and me into his office, opened his desk drawer files and shared with us his important documents, labeled, and organized alphabetically. Even going so far as to tell us about our future monetary gains upon his passing. Of course, at the time, my brother and I didn’t want to entertain the idea of his demise. But now that I am older, I realize that this was a thoughtful gift to us. He took care to complete lengthy forms declaring his wishes, complete with letters to each of us (that we read after he died) … and arrangements to leave monies in a trust for us. And then he lived another 39 years!
What have you done to prepare your loved ones for your exit?
Can we visualize ourselves years from now as older adult members of our community? It’s not too late to prepare. If you have not done so already, take time NOW to tidy up your life, and derive enjoyment from the process.
Consider all the special ways you can honor people and relationships you have. Think about who the people are that you appreciate. Think about how you can show them gratitude with notes, and words of appreciation. Then write them and let them know your plans that can be placed in your future box of gratitude or left in detailed instructions in your will/ trust. Share the important names and numbers with your loved ones. Attorneys, doctors, long-lost relatives, combinations to locks, bank safe deposit boxes, etc. etc.
Write down the mementos you would like to give away to special individuals. You can even ask your children or others if there are “things” they would like to own of yours when you are no longer here… You can give these things NOW, while you are still here, and enjoy the pleasure on the recipient’s faces! I learned this from my father.
Think about unique opportunities to rehearse your final moments. Where would you like to be? Who would you like to be present, or would you wish to be alone? Is there music or poetry, or inspirational texts you’d like to hear?
Write your own obituary. Are there things that you haven’t completed yet? You could write, in the voice of your spouse, children and grandchildren, or friends, how you hope they would remember you. These are preparations for later in life and unique exercises to engage in today… This does not have to be morbid. These preparations can bring you joy.
Some people wish to hold a memorial service while they are still living. They gather the people they feel the closest to and tell each of them what they mean to them and what each has given to them and what they love about them. This can be a joy-filled beautiful milestone moment to rehearse and give all those who are present their due so they can savor these loving moments too. And while doing this, invite your people to tell you what they love about you. You deserve it. Give thanks to all those present for the abundance of love.
What if we try to imagine that we have only one day left on this Earth? What can we do in our last moments to declare ourselves fully alive? Thinking this way elevates and inspires us to appreciate every moment.
At Jewish Senior Life we often ask our seasoned residents what advice they would give to the younger generation. Inevitably, in their supreme wisdom and life experiences, they say,
“Live fully. Have some fun. Get out in the world. Make a difference. Do something for others. Volunteer and help others less fortunate.” And, in the words of Sylvia Starkman, 2022 Eight Over Eighty honoree, “Don’t be a bystander.”
It is these actions that provide comfort and spread peace. It is in these actions that people can fully live.
“This moment is all there is.” Rumi
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land, there is no other life but this.” Henry David Thoreau
“There is never a time when your life is not this moment. Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.” Eckhart Tolle
“Life is available only in the present moment. If you abandon the present moment, you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply.” Thich Nhat Hanh