Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Facing the Future with Faith

After struggling for the past four months with what I've called "episodes"(said with my Southern accent) related to a sensation in my lower throat/neck, heart area, and down my arm, I recently had an angiogram with three stents put into the main arteries of my heart.  While waiting to get the angiogram, I was asked if I had an Advanced Directive which I did not. I have never come so face to face with my own mortality as I did while having the episodes and facing potential surgery.  As a former hospice bereavement counselor and now a crisis counselor, I am used to listening and talking about life and death issues.  An aspect of my job is to go into companies that have experienced unexpected deaths. There have been quite a few opportunities this year to do this.  I have become increasingly aware during those times that the unexpected death could be my own.  No, I've not been thinking morbidly, just realistically.  

I have to say that at 62, I do not feel old.  In fact, in many ways I feel like my life has just begun.  It has taken a lifetime to come to this point of understanding what some of my gifts and talents are, and I'm having a ball exploring them.  The cowgirl in my art expresses who I want to be(fearless), and a message I want to pass on, that it's not too late to be who you are meant to be.  

Back to reality though.  I am 62, have a genetic propensity to heart disease, and have health issues that need to be addressed.  All the basics would apply - how I eat, sleep, move, etc. Having these stents put in has been an awakening to take my health more seriously.

I am, also, still reflecting on the fact that I need an Advanced Directive. There is a website called Aging with Dignity that has a link called Five Wishes http://www.agingwithdignity.org/five-wishes.php Please wait before you judge the name of this website(that it's just for older folks). Five Wishes is a legal document expressing my desires for the final stages of my life when I'm not able to make decisions on my own.  These relate to who can make decisions for me when I'm not able to, the kind of medical treatment I want, comfort care, how I want to be treated,and things I want to say to others.  Filling out the Five Wishes has risen to the top of my priority list.  Having this information ahead of time really does lift burdens from loved ones regarding decision making.  A man on the site's video https://fivewishesonline.agingwithdignity.org says anyone from 18 on up can do this.  Eighteen is young, yet no one knows when their last breath will be.  Again, I don't want to come across as morbid.  It is just much better to discuss these things while we are alive and well.  Whether we like it or not, none of us will escape taking a last breath on this side of Heaven. 

As many of us have so much in common, each of us is a unique human being with different beliefs about living and dying.  It would be an interesting study to research the various religions, cultures, etc.  In my work, I'm meeting people that admit to not having spiritual beliefs.  Even though I refrain from telling anyone what to believe, I do encourage them to begin seeking.  Having some faith can serve as a strong resource when it comes to any of the hard things in life.  

At the end of this blog post, I have listed some resources that will encourage anyone going through the grieving process. Just maybe our thinking about death and dying can be transformed into strength and even beauty.  Here is a lovely quote by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross:

There are numerous excellent resources regarding this topic.  Here are some of my recommendations:

A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss, Jerry S. Sittser
Center for Loss, Dr. Alan Wolfelt
Glad No Matter What, Sark
Glimpses of Heaven, Trudy Harris, RN
Good Grief, Granger E. Westberg
Grief, Dying, and Death, Therese Rando
Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis
Heaven is for Real, Todd Burpo
Hello from Heaven, Bill Guggenheim & Judy Guggenheim
Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well, Billy Graham
Necessary Losses, Judith Viorst 
On Death & Dying, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
The Art of Comforting, Val Walker
Tracks of a Fellow Struggler:  Living and Growing Through Grief, John R. Claypool 



  1. Oh Nancy, I want to hug you! I too have faced my own mortality and it's very sobering. 4 episodes of anaphylactic shock have given me a real appreciation for life and to live it to the fullest! Thanks for sharing this.....I need to make my list. Hugs!

    1. Diane, I so appreciate you taking time to share with me what you have dealt with in your life. Those episodes sound very scary. I pray you don't have anymore anaphylactic shock, and that you stay healthy. Sending you a great big Forever Hug! xoxo