Our National Cemetery in Sarasota is filling fast. The men and women who served this country during World War II now have the dubious distinction of being the generation that is dying at the fastest rate in the U.S. I know (knew) so many of them. I’ve cared for them as a hospice nurse and, in my current role as a grief specialist, I have counseled them and, later, their loved ones left behind. They are a tremendously strong and proud generation. They jumped so many huge hurdles in their lives that many can never accept that their time is coming to an end. Remarkably, many couples that have been married for 50, 60, or 70 years never discuss the prospect of death. Independent to a fault, they stubbornly remain in private homes long after they should. They are not able to care for them and their safety is seriously compromised. Widows lead solitary, isolated lives because they promised their spouse they would stay in the family home forever. It can break your heart, it has broken mine on many occasions.
So, to those who may be reading this and have a parent, aunt, uncle, cousin or friend who is in this “Greatest Generation” do them a favor. Talk to them about end-of-life plans. If they tell you “there’s plenty of time for that,” tell them they are wrong. Talk to them, ask questions about Plan B (what will they do when they must leave the family home). Help them sort through the years of memories and possessions.
Some people say that leaving this world is the ultimate “independence.” Help your loved ones leave with the dignity, safety, and sense of accomplishment that they deserve. ❧