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What do you plan to do with the rest of your life between now (today) and then (your last day)?

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September 6, 2015

Greetings and Happy Labor Day Week-end 2015.

Welcome to this, my first blog posting, which I wrote on July 4, 2015.

Much of what I write about will be based on my book, Between Now and Then: A Common-Sense End-of-Life Planning Guide for Baby Boomers (and the rest of us).

The term “end-of-life” seems to cause negative reactions in some people, who cannot even say the words. Some people immediately think it is only about death and dying, and while those topics can be part of the planning process between now and then, end-of-life planning involves so much more.

If you can equate end-of-life planning with your “bucket list,” you may feel much better. The term “bucket list” has become so much a part of the conversation that people immediately understand what it means when you say the words. Both terms simply mean the creation of your own list of things you want to do, should do, and need to do before you run out of time.

To quote Gail Rubin in her book, A Good Good-Bye: “Talking about death and dying will no sooner make you dead than talking about sex will make you pregnant.” I love that quote, because it puts things in perspective in clear, understandable language.

So, now that that’s out of the way, I would like to define end-of-life planning for you. It is about your making plans for the things to do with your time between today and the last day of your life. It might be many years from now or it might be tomorrow. Not knowing when that last day will happen puts some sense of urgency into the planning process. In other words, if there is something you really, really want to do between now and then, begin making plans to see that it happens. And, remember that whether or not it happens is entirely up to you. It only matters if it matters to you.

The first step is to decide what to do.

The second step is to talk about it … give it life through your speaking.

The third step is to do what is necessary to to make it happen.

Several months ago, I read a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer that is a good example of end-of-life planning. A woman who lived in the Appalachian mountains was approaching her 104th birthday, and she said she always wanted to see the ocean, and was committed to doing that before her birthday. People in her life helped her, and there was a picture of her walking barefoot at the water’s edge on a beach in one of the Carolinas. She was all bundled up because it was November, and her immediate reaction was so sweet: “I didn’t expect the water to be so cold.” This woman was able to walk in the ocean before she ran out of time, and it would not have happened if she had not told someone of her wish.

It is entirely possible to reach a point in your life when you are no longer physically, emotionally, financially, or legally competent to do the things you want to do before you last day. So, it is important that you begin working on your list right away.

Writing a book was never on my list. It sort of evolved over years and years of working in the legal and financial fields that specialize in estate planning. I observed people dying before they did the things that were important to them, and making some serious “Humpty Dumpty” mistakes along the way. Those mistakes generate fees for lawyers, but it is my opinion that the mistakes don’t have to happen so often. And, so I began writing about those mistakes in an effort to show people how to avoid them in their own future.  I introduced readers to the idea of having a two-way conversation with the professionals in their lives, some or all of whom they will meet at some point in the future.  (I’m referring to lawyers, financial planners, accountants, funeral directors, and medical professionals.)

What was on my “bucket list” most of my life was owning a flower shop, and in 1990, I opened Blue Gardenia Flowers in Bridgeport, PA. As a child, I used to cut flowers from our yard, wrap them up with ribbon, and go around the neighborhood selling them. My sister and I used to make “wedding flowers,” and with the kids in the neighborhood, we used to conduct little funerals for a dead bird or squirrel. We always had lots and lots of flowers in our yard. Making flowers arrangements was just one of the things I have done in my life. When I was no longer enjoying operating the shop, I closed it and went back to the legal office. That’s when my book began to stir in my mind.

To quote Elanor Roosevelt, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

Life is short and you’re dead a long time.  So, if there is something you really want to do between now and then, you must do it. And, if it is so important to you, why haven’t you done it already? Oh, yes, I know … your list of excuses is long:
– Too busy
– I’m afraid
– Costs too much money
– Don’t know how
– Don’t have anyone to do it with me
– People will laugh at me
– I might fail (I might succeed)
– I’ll do it later, when I get around to it
– People might say it is stupid (define “stupid”)
– I think it is stupid, so why even bother? (Because it’s your dream, that’s why.)
– I can’t do it because _______________________________________________

Do you need someone’s permission to begin working on your personal Bucket List? If you require your own permission, that’s easy. Just do it. Besides, why do you need someone else’s permission to live your life your way?

In my opinion, the whole point of end-of-life planning is to live your life in such a way that you will have NO regrets at the end. Your time will run out some day, and you want to avoid regrets at the end. If this, too, is important to you, then you must begin today.
Remember this quote by Harriet Beecher Stowe:  “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.”

My husband and I have decided to take the advice from my book about where we will live between now and then, and will be moving to a continuing care retirement community in the next few months.  WOW!  Who knew that I had so much stuff … I just thought it was decorating.  So, now we are in the process of down-sizing in a big way.  Read about our adventure in future posts.

 

Jeanne C. Hoff, author
[Between Now and Then: A Common-Sense End-of-Life Planning Guide for Baby Boomers (and the rest of us)]
www.jeannechoffauthor.com


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