There comes a time when one must prepare for one’s death; as in plan your funeral, or at least make your wishes known. That is what I was prepared to tell my parents on this last visit to their home in Appleton.
My parents are in their upper 80’s. They are in relatively good health, but, let’s face it, and we all do not want to face it, the end will be coming.
And with a death comes a funeral. And in our case, standing between the demise and the funeral, are five daughters, all of whom are just sure they know how it should be done. Dad loved this Bible passage, uh, no he didn’t. Mom would like a choir, Mom hated choirs. You know the drill, if you’re part of the “sandwich” generation – having just pulled one foot out of the layer of child care, and stepping smack dab into the world of caring for, or at least caring more about your parents’ welfare. You know it is a time fraught with decisions you would rather not have to make.
Like planning funerals.
But I was prepared. I had a well-written template that I had picked up at church which contained questions like, “Do you want to be cremated? What readings would you like? Music?” Even with this plan, I was filled with trepidation.
To my complete surprise, I was barely in the door when my Dad said, “You know, I think it is time we planned our funerals”. Yes, you could hear my jaw drop, and feel my sense of glee that I did not have to broach the subject with resistance and dread.
So, we did just that. Filled in the blanks of the template. (I should note that my mother refused to have any part of this discussion. “Oh that,” she remarked with a wave of her hand, and that was about the end of that.) At least I got 1 out of 2 funerals planned.
The next shock came with my dad’s second pronouncement: “You know, I think we should get a cat.” A cat. As in the animal which had never ever been part of my growing up years. I could have sworn we were a cat-hating family. My own children wore me out over the years by their constant pleas for a cat. And we got one. And then another. And I am now a cat lover.
But my parents? It turns out that my family’s beloved Patch, the one-eyed kitty, won over their stone-cold cat-hating hearts. On their visits to our house, Mom and Dad learned a cat does indeed have a mind of its own, that it will not do anything you tell it to do, yet there is nothing sweeter and comforting than a kitty curled up on your lap in the evening.
Still, I could not believe Dad wanted to get a cat, so I let it sit.
The next morning, he still wanted a cat. And since I am the only person in my extended family even willing to approach a feline creature, I was just the person to help them find one.
The search was long and brutal. I’ll write about that another time. Suffice it to say we picked a winner. Odie is big and friendly and quirky. He loves to watch the birds out the window. He loves to sit on my mom’s walker while she carts him around (but of course it must be his decision). And, as my dad says, “It is so nice to wake up and have someone to greet in the morning!” (Well, he does say “hi” to my mom.)
So, what does a cat have to do with the funerals?
I think it has to do with how we approach our final years. There is the reality that death will in fact come, and we’d better acknowledge it and be ready for it (as much as anyone can be ready for it). But on the other hand, we can choose to keep on living life to the fullest. For my parents that entails many activities, most surprisingly, getting a cat.
Strange how life turns out, isn’t it?
So, yes, it is good to have finally planned the funerals. But how much sweeter life is to see that this strange new being, Odie, the cat, has come into their world. Ready to jump up and purr, greet my Dad in the morning, jump at the window to get the birds, or run away, whatever he decides.