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It's Your Choice

Story ID:4196
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Manhattan KS USA
Year:2006
Person:Nancy J. Kopp
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Itís Your Choice


Iíve reached an age where my peers and also their very elderly parents are dying in rapid numbers. My college alumni magazine arrived the other day, and the only names familiar to me were a few in the Memoriam column. I donít bother looking in the weddings or birth section any longer. When I open our local newspaper, the first thing I check is the Obituary column, and far too often, I recognize a name or two.

Iíve attended so many funerals in our community that I have mentally rated the churches that put on the best ones and which funeral home is the A-line. Iíd much rather critique bridesmaidsí dresses than what the widow wore. Iíd far prefer the smiles and laughter at a wedding over the tears and desperate hugs of the bereaved.

With each passing year, the number of funerals I attend and the sympathy cards I send increases. Iíve learned to keep a selection of sympathy cards in a drawer, ready and waiting to be used when needed. And thereís no doubt they will be needed. An old joke is that the only sure things in this world are death and taxes. Not as funny since I became eligible for Medicare.

An early morning phone caller asks if Iíve heard about a mutual acquaintance recently diagnosed with Lou Gehrigís disease. How long, I wonder, will it be until itís his funeral I attend. Another caller lets me know itís end days for the mother of one of my daughterís school friendsóa mom who compared notes about teens with me, who rejoiced over a first grandchild. And now, she will soon be gone. The sadness that enters my life more frequently as I get older could propel me on a downward spiral to depression. How easy it would be to sink deeper and deeper into the soft pillow of sadness while I tuck the comforter of grief under my chin.

I donít want to fall into that trap, but what can I do to ensure it doesnít happen? If only this age thing could be put in reverse, but I need a realistic solution, so I give serious thought to this question as I tread a walking trail each morning. The solitude and being surrounded by birdsong and insect sounds clears my mind and lifts my spirits. I create a mental list and add to it each day. Blue sky, fluffy clouds, and verdant vegetation provide the perfect setting for generating a positive outlook.

From now on at funerals, Iím going to think about how the deceased touched my life, not the empty space thatís left. Iíll dwell on the joys and laughter we may have shared or something special we did together, whether it occurred last week or thirty years ago. Thereíll be a smile on my face when I share some of these stories with others.

Death is a part of life, and Iíll try to accept it with grace. Because I believe in a life after death, Iíll remind myself that one day Iím going to see this person again.

Another way to balance my own mental health is to stay in touch with the family of the deceased. Iíll work to keep the lines of communication open and strong. Both sides can reap benefits from such an action. What better way to preserve fond memories?

When a discussion of death comes up amongst my friends, I vow to add a positive slant to the conversation. Let them call me Pollyanna or not, but Iím tired of this gloom and doom attitude men and women in their senior years tend to acquire. Enough of that hang-dog look. Letís make the best of whatís left to us.

The years which remain may be of short number, but they can be filled with good things to balance the sad times. All we have to do is let the positives rise to the top like the cream in a bottle of milk delivered to our childhood homes.

Barbara Bush wrote something in her autobiography that Iíve never forgotten. The gist of it was that we have a choice when we wake up each morning. We can like what happens that day, or we can choose to let it make us sad or morbid. She chose to like her day every day. I think Iíll sign up for her team.

The next funeral that comes along will find me celebrating the life of the person who died instead of mourning my personal loss.