I was at home one evening, when my mother called. “Do you have a few minutes to talk? Daddy and I just got back from dinner with friends and we have a few things we want to talk about with you…”
I immediately made a few minutes, corralling my 2nd and 4th grade daughters and telling them I’d be on the phone for a bit, please not to disturb me unless it was urgent.
“So what’s up?” I asked, really expecting some comments about a friend’s health or travel plans.
“I want to ask you a question,” my mother began, “and Daddy’s on the line too, now.
“When we die, are you going to want a funeral, or a memorial service, or what?”
(Like I’d ever thought of this!!) “Uh, well…” I stalled. “I have no idea. What do YOU want?”
“This won’t be for us, darling. Think a bit about what YOU will need,” my mother insisted.
“OK, I’ll want to have a funeral for you…”
“Fine. Then please hold it at noon, at Riverside Chapel in NYC.”
“OK, but why there and then?”
“Because most of your friends work, this will be convenient, and at lunchtime. You’ll have support.”
“Oh my God, is anything wrong? Is one of you–or both of you–sick??”
“No, not at all. We just had dinner with friends who brought this up, and we think you should know how we feel as well. There’s more.”
What followed was a conversation relating to burial decisions, bank accounts, safe deposit box info, and dozens of other data, all of which I was writing down as they spoke to me, and which I was asked to save. Of course, I saved it all.
Many years later, on the evening I got the call that my Mother had died suddenly and unexpectedly, while tears ran down my cheeks and my mind went into chaos, I realized I had only to reach for this paper, and I’d have the answers to all the questions I was about to have to answer.
That conversation was the gift of a lifetime–probably the most generous, helpful gift a person can give a loved one.
It’s time for me to give a similar gift to my daughters, and I’m afraid I’m stalling. I hope writing this, and your site, will give me the wisdom and the courage to do my part this year.