Goals of Life and Good Death

IMG_0501.jpeg

With everything that has happened the past few years, I am a little behind on goals. I finally completed a New Year’s resolution that I had back in 2016. I have read the Bible in it’s entirety this year. It had been awhile since I have read the Bible completely.

Following the Our Daily Bread plan, I read a passage from the Old Testament and from the New Testament each day. Breaking it up into chunks with passages from both Old and New made it much more manageable, especially when going through books such as Numbers. Numbers basically consists of long lists of incomprehensible names. 

I have yet to meet a person whose favorite book of the Bible is Numbers. However, if your favorite book is Numbers, let me know. I would like to know why and to hear your viewpoint so that I can learn something. 

Reading through the Bible in its entirety again was calming yet challenging. We all have our favorite books to which we gravitate and return to again and again. Some books like Numbers were more challenging. 

For the record, I would say that Nehemiah is my favorite book of the Bible. Although, my favorite verses, that are my life verses and will be read at my funeral,  are 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NLT). 

In 2020, I am hoping to accomplish a goal that I had set for myself last year and did not yet achieve. Since buying the house and turning 40, I decided I need to be a responsible adult and plan my funeral. Well, I should at least have a Will. I now have a significant asset, so decisions should be made. Yes, I know it sounds morbid, but hear me out. 

First, I have no family. This means that when I die, my body and possessions would become a ward of the state. Since I spent about half of my childhood as a ward of the state, I have no desire for my dead body to become one as well. I know someone else who died with no family and saw what that looks like. It is the most undignified and disrespectful way to die. I am appalled at what happens to dead bodies that are wards of the state in New York State. 

Given that I have no family, there is no one to carry the burden to make arrangements and decisions when I am gone. There are no friends close enough that I would ask to bear the burden that should be carried by a spouse or child. If I pre-plan everything, then the only thing that would need to be asked of a friend would be final signing of paperwork to carry out my pre-planned wishes.

Second, I have discovered that a pre-planned and pre-paid funeral is exempt from both asset calculations and from all legal proceedings that may take something from you. As an example, if I end up in need of Medicaid in the future, a pre-planned and pre-paid funeral would not be considered an asset for Medicaid determination purposes. Also, when I die, all my assets would currently be seized by the federal government to be put towards my student loan debt. Nothing would be able to be sold or saved to put towards my funeral; it would all go to student loans. A pre-planned and pre-paid funeral would be exempt from seizure to satisfy my student loan debt.

This is in marked contrast to a life insurance policy. One of my friends suggested just getting a life insurance policy that would pay for everything. Well, a life insurance policy is considered an asset and would disqualify me from receiving Medicaid if I should need that in the future. A life insurance policy would also be seized to fulfill my student loan requirement in the event of my death, with none of the money going to my funeral or anything else. My house would be seized for student loans also.

You know, I keep saying student loans in America are a form of indentured servitude. Student loans are a rant for another day. Or, you can check out my slam poetry piece from #Occupy to jog your memory on student loans. I digress.

It is my goal in 2020 to pre-plan and pre-pay my funeral, so that when I die, I just need a person to sign off on all my arrangements. For example, I want to be cremated. You cannot sign the paperwork to be cremated until you have a dead body. If you are dead, you cannot sign for yourself, so someone will have to sign for me.

As gloom and doom as this may sound, the planning I have started has actually been quite fun and exciting. For some reason, I attended a few funerals in 2019, and while each was beautiful in its own way and befitting the deceased, none of them are what I want. 

In the words of Monty Python, I want “one mother of a blowout.”

I am planning a 2 hour celebration of life party. Instead of everyone singing church hymns and sitting through a service that may have meaning to me, but not to them, I am designing a play list. I have chosen 26.2 songs that have multiple meanings in my life. 26.2 is the length of a marathon. There are 26 songs, one by a different artist. The point 2 portion are my two favorite Christmas songs. 

It has been so much fun working on my funeral play list. I am going through songs and very carefully choosing ones that have had significant meaning for my life for decades. 

There is the play list of songs in the key of life, then there is the annotated play list. The annotated play list is basically the Celebration of Life program. In the annotation, I have 2-3 sentences that explain why the chosen song was so significant in my life. 

This way, people can listen to the play list and maybe learn things about me in death that they did not know in life. They can also listen to songs from the play list whenever they miss me and want to remember me after I’m gone (if there is anyone who misses me like that). 

Some people have asked what is the purpose in pre-planning one’s funeral ? You will be dead, who cares? For me, the purpose in pre-planning my own funeral is so that hopefully I can have in death what I never got in life.

And that there is another story entirely.

But I think even without giving you the back story, simply stating that I want to pre-plan my funeral so that I can have in death what I do not have in life to be impactful and meaningful enough. 

Given that I am now a home owner, creating a Will, doing legal paperwork and all of this pre-planning is the “responsible adult” thing to do. With my disability, I want to be sure that I put these provisions in place now while I am of sound mind and body. No one knows the course this disability takes. I have good days and bad days. I may be with it today, and completely gone tomorrow. I want to make my own choices while I have the ability to make them.

With 2020 coming, the year is going to be about life and the good death. On a less morbid note, I am in the process of planning my 2020 running season and am looking forward to my next race and to achieving medal #18 in 2020. Every step I run is a celebration of the beauty of life and makes me so grateful to be on the planet. Running = Life. 

 

Home of the East Wind

WP_20190707_17_51_09_Pro

As we read the book of Job, we see a man with great integrity who has everything taken from him by Satan. In Job 1, God gives Satan permission to test Job with the caveat: “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically” (1:12). We then hear Job and his friends talking about the adversity he is all of a sudden experiencing in life.

Finally, in Job 38, the Lord challenges Job about his complaining. In Job 38:24, the Lord asks “Where is the path to the origin of light? Where is the home of the east wind?” These are very big questions. I certainly don’t know the answer. God asks these questions to basically say that us humans on Earth are not able to comprehend the extent of God’s power. God created everything. We can’t answer all of those questions.

I may not know where the home of the east wind is located, but I do know that the sun rises in the east and signifies the start of a new day. Each day is a new opportunity to try to live life the best that we can. To this end, I ask, “what gives your life meaning?”

We may not know where the home of the east wind lies, but usually when the wind blows, that signifies change. What is the meaning of your life and what needs to change?

These are very big questions and they can get really intense.

I’ve had many changes in my life recently. Use whichever euphemism you want – a new day, the winds of change blowing … what I have come to realize is that my entire life has changed in a drastic way over the past three years. I have experienced at least 8 of the 10 major lifetime stressors during that time. I have also been grieving at least four different extremely significant loses.

A light bulb recently went off in my head. When life feels really overwhelming and there is a lot going on, the best people are able to overcome and plow through by slowing it down.

Simplify the situation and it is easier to deal with.

In Job, we read 42 chapters of trials, tribulations and complaining. Then, the entire situation is simplified, solved and ended with one statement. “I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” – Job 42:6.

Sometimes we have to just sit down and simplify life to deal with it.

I have been on this journey to simplify my life and it wasn’t helping. It wasn’t hurting either. Simplifying my life allowed me to face my trials these past few years without losing my mind. That’s a positive. However, it did not help to give me a direction for improvement.

When I read Job 42:6 about sitting in dust and ashes to show my repentance, I think that it is all about getting back to basics. How can I be the best me I can be? How can you be the best you that you can be? You can sit there and complain and wallow about adversity, or you can sit quietly and come to a peaceful conclusion.

I realized that I have been drifting since I finished school in 2015. I spent 20 years as a college student and now that I am done, I have no direction in my life. I have no passion. I have also been in a period of grief, as I have experienced at least one major loss in my life each year for the past four years.

It’s time to get back to basics. I need to focus on my health, running and nutrition. I need to have goals. My half marathon this fall is a good goal. I need more goals for when my race is over.

For the first time, I think I’m done grieving, so hopefully I won’t have any more losses any time soon. I kind of get what Job was lamenting. I have lost a lot these past few years too.

The east wind comes to remind us to be the best we can be. What gives your life meaning? How can you set new goals and move from a place of brokenness to a place of repentance and peace?

I have no idea how to redirect my life now that I am no longer a student. I need a new goal other than “survive.” I am going to start with focusing on my health, running and nutrition, but I know I need something bigger than that.

Maybe in the silence, something will come.