During the month of love, let’s consider giving family, friends gift of a good death

February, the shortest month of the year, follows January, and has 95 holidays, some bizarre and others we hold dear. Groundhog Day (in Alaska marmots are the substitute), President’s Day, Valentine’s Day when love gets honored with everything from flowers to far away trips. Super Bowl Sunday happened Feb. 7, Mardi Gras/ Fat was Tuesday, Feb. 9. Ash Wednesday and Chinese New Year dates vary. These are the more common holidays. 

February also is Black History Month and American Heart Month, along with Great American Pie Month.  There’s even a Cherry Pie Day in February.

If you Google February holidays, the noticeable thing is most of the days are positive holidays like Thank a Mailman Day, Kite Flying Day, Make a Friend Day, National Organ Donor Day, Love Your Pet Day, Be Humble Day, National Chocolate Mint Day (I’m not making these up), Oscar Night, Do a Grouch a Favor Day, Random Acts of Kindness Day, Polar Bear Day, No Brainer Day, and this year Leap Day. It occurs in 2016, every four years. All those Leap Year babies can really truly celebrate this year. What’s the point?

Gray winter, rainy days at the End of The Road are monotonous and darker without the usual snow this time of year, and give us the opportunity to look at life through the lens of these numerous positive holidays.

What can we do regardless of life circumstances and life difficulties?

January has not been the most positive month for me lately with the death of my husband two years ago, a dear friend’s death this year, friends suffering with cancer and long term illness. 

My husband’s oncologist at Vanderbilt Carcinoid Institute said, “The greatest gift we give to our family and friends is a good death.” The longer I live without loved ones, the more true his words. I’ve decided to take his advice.

These gray days allow time to clean out and get rid of, put paperwork in order, downsize everything, make plans how I want to leave this earthly life and put those wishes on record so loved ones and friends are guided and do not have to guess. 

It gives me time to go through photos and give thanks for friends and family, reread favorite books and magazine articles, decide what clothes bring joy and give the rest away for someone else to use or not, set aside collected items to auction at the annual Hospice of Homer fundraiser, give things away and experience the recipient’s joy. I say this not to dwell on death, but rather the opposite, to live fully now.

Hospice has several book discussions about compassion and death. After recent death experiences and attending discussions, it’s good for us to share. In the death phobic society of the United States where living the good life and looking one’s best is emphasized, it’s important to remember none of us get out of here alive.

We honor birth and give prizes to the New Year’s Baby, as well we should. What if we honored our death by preparing for it? 

We don’t know surrounding circumstances of our death, but we can plan practical things now. What if we were able to talk about death openly and honestly? About how it hurts and confuses? How it can be awesome and full of spirit and love beyond our wildest imagination? And how it can sting deeply with a sudden death? Or how memories eventually become gratitude? 

This type of conversation is authentic and real. We can help each other prepare for the most important milestone of our life and not be afraid. In this month of love, it can be the greatest gift we give to each other.

Perhaps in light of reality that we have only one life to live, one life to give, our state and city economic conditions pale. We can become more gentle in our thoughts and approach. We can quiet political rhetoric and hostility, angst and tension toward each other. We can actually come to consensus and make wise decisions for the people of this beautiful state and this Hamlet by the Sea. Let us put love and understanding first and give kindness. In the end, it’s what matters.

Flo Larson is a retired teacher, mother, grandmother, gardener and Homer Foundation Board member and volunteer.

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