Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Quote for the Week

Always know in your heart that you are far bigger than anything that can happen to you.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Tip #11 for Navigating the Rough Seas of Widowhood

Life is sad when you've just lost a loved one.  The world seems bleak and gray.  But you can try to find something each day to make you smile.  Not a big thing, just something small like a rose bush bursting into bloom, a smile from someone passing by, a sitcom that makes you chuckle, an email from a friend, a sunrise, a sunset.  At the end of the day I tally all the things that brought me a bit of cheer.  If you do that, you begin to look for things that light a spark of joy.  Try it.

That's the last of my 11 tips, but know what?  I think I have a few more, so in the next week or weeks I'll add an addendum.  Take care.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Quote for the Week in Memory of My Husband

Thursday, October 16 will be the ninth anniversary of my husband's death.  In some ways it seems like yesterday; in others it seems forever.
On the last Valentine he gave me was a quote from First Corinthians:

Love bears all things,
Believes all things,
Hopes all things,
Endures all things. 
Love never fails.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Books of September

In one of Daniel Silva's older books Israeli spy/art restorer must thwart a plot to kill the Pope.  Why is an Israeli doing this?  Why not?  A really good thriller. It gets an A.

Historical novel about the powerful D'Este sisters and their friendship with Leonardo Da Vinci.  Never felt I got to know the characters, although I did find the parts about Leonardo's painting of The Last Supper interesting.  B or B-

Very short book, consisting of three essays.  The first two, on hot air ballooning did not hold my interest but the third, on grief, was amazing.  I've read many books about grief but never anything as true as this one.  Skip the first two parts.  The third gets an A.

A family court judge visits a young man with leukemia, with far-reaching consequences.  This wasn't as good as some of his other books, a bit too predictable, but I enjoyed it.  A-

I was cleaning out my bookshelf and came upon this book.  I don't remember when, where or why I bought it, and I know I never read it, but it appeared at just the right time for me.  Having spent a couple of months in pain this summer and as a teenager having suffered third degree burns, I found this books to be a poignant description of the author's experience of illness and pain.  This is a book I will keep.  A+

This book alternates between two people with "five days left."  One is dealing with Huntington's chorea, the other with giving up a foster child he's come to love.  Those two don't seem to balance each other out.  This is a first novel and reads like one.  We get to know the characters but don't really feel for them, at least I didn't.  B+

I read a lot this month, didn't I?  Not sure how I managed to fit all these books in, but two were short.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Tip # 10 for Navigating the Rough Seas of Widowhood

Here is a tip for everyone, widowed or not.  Take the time to write a legacy letter to your loved ones.  I am so passionate about legacy letters that this summer I took a course to be certified as a legacy letter facilitator. 

Legacy letters used to be called ethical wills. I'm glad people have begun to refer to them as legacy letters.  The term "ethical will" sounds off-putting to me.

What is a legacy letter?  It's not a legal document.  Unlike your legal will, which bequeaths your tangible property to your heirs, an ethical will is a personal document that leaves your wisdom, your values, your hopes for the future.  It's a way, not only to leave a legacy but also to leave future generations a glimpse of you.  We all want to be remembered, but it's almost scary how quickly we vanish from memory.  When I took the ethical will course, we were asked how many of us could name our great grandparents.  Only one person could name them all and that was because she was interested in learning her family history.  Most, including me, couldn't name more than one.  In just a couple of generations we have faded from memory.

Ethical wills have been around for thousands of years.  The first ethical will, an oral one, is credited to the patriarch Jacob who, on his deathbed, gave his sons blessings... or curses  (Don't emulate Jacob if you write an ethical will).

What I've written so far sounds like a legacy letter is something you leave after you've passed away.  But people have written legacy letters to newborns, to family members celebrating a milestone, to friends.  One woman told me she'd like to write to her unborn grandchild.  Lovely. 

There's no rule about who, when, or why you write a legacy letter.  The only suggestion is that you open your heart.

Take care, and come back next week for Tip#11.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Quote for the Week

On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement there is a memorial service to remember all our loved ones.  This poem is my favorite part of the service:

IN THE RISING of the sun, and in its going down, we remember them. 
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, we remember them. 
In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them. 
In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer, we remember them. 
In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them. 
In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them. 
When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them. 
When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them. 
When we have joys we yearn to share, we remember them. 
So long as they live, we, too, shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember them. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

How Long is Long Enough?

In a provocative article in The Atlantic, bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel announces 75 is long enough.  He says that’s an appropriate age to die.  The title of the article, “Why I Hope to Die at 75” is a bit misleading though.  Emanuel doesn’t plan to blow out the candles on his 75th birthday cake, go into the bedroom and swallow a bottle of pills.  Rather, at 75 he will quit doing anything to prolong his life and let nature take its course.  He will forgo any kind of treatment, even preventative.  He will no longer take flu shots or colonoscopies (I’m with him on that one.) no longer take antibiotics if he has an infection.  And of course such treatments as chemo if he should develop cancer or bypass surgery for a heart attack are out of the question.  I suppose if he stepped on a rusty nail, he would refuse a tetanus shot.  He will no longer visit doctors for check-ups or routine tests.  If ill, he will accept palliative care to lessen pain but nothing else.


Why?  Well, he says by 75 he will have lived a full life, accomplished his greatest achievements, had an opportunity to see his children and grandchildren and presumably done everything he wants to do.  That includes climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, which he did last year.  He suggests that after 75 all we have to look forward to is decline…physically, mentally, emotionally.  Cancer, heart disease, dementia—one of these will be on the horizon.  We will be a drain on family members, take up hospital space.  With dementia, we will even lose our selves.  When we’re finally gone, our children will remember us as old and decrepit, not young and vigorous as we once were.


Emanuel’s father, near 75, was a mega-achiever and now is content to be a mentor to younger people (Is that so bad?).  Slowing down doesn’t seem to bother Dad, but Ezekiel finds it infinitely sad.  If you’re no longer accomplishing much other than completing the daily crossword puzzle, who would want to go on?  Apparently Emanuel never heard of Grandma Moses.


Important note:  Ezekiel is 57.  At that age, 75 does sound ancient.  How will he feel at 74?  Will he still believe there are no more peaks to climb, even metaphorically?  Of course we don’t know.


As one who has passed what he considers the end-stage age of 75, I still feel pretty lively even though I’m walking more slowly and my waistline has expanded and I forget where I put my keys more often than I used to.  I think there is still joy to be found in living. Yes, I fear disease and dementia, especially the latter.  I remember being profoundly shaken by the book Still Alice, in which the main character decides to commit suicide when her dementia worsens to the point where she doesn’t want to live…and then, when that time comes, has forgotten how she planned to do it.


When I suffered severe pain this spring from a pinched sciatic nerve, I wondered if life was worth living.  But I’m better now and more optimistic.  I don’t intend to quit taking flu shots or seeing my doctors…but I do sort of hope to slip away peacefully some night...in the future...in my sleep.



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