by Lila Lazarus
It wasn’t a question I wanted to ask. We were sitting with my Mom in her new assisted living facility having coffee and I was going to ask her if she wanted another cookie but instead blurted, “Mom, do you want to be buried or cremated?”
Perhaps I could have been more delicate. Perhaps I could have waited for another time. Perhaps I was insensitive. But the right time never comes for the tough questions. All my siblings were in town to help move my Mom into the new facility. This seemed as good a moment as any. Some say the ideal time for this conversation is before you turn 40 and your parents turn 70, whichever comes first. But that ship sailed for us a while ago. Mom is 86. It was now or never.
In life, you don’t regret what you do, you regret what you don’t do. I would regret not knowing my Mom’s wishes…just like I’d regret not telling someone how much they mean to me before they die or waiting too long to take a photo and missing my window. We’d already asked the difficult financial questions about bank accounts, insurance policies, advance directives, and names of doctors and her lawyer. But when it came to the funeral, burial arrangements and organ donation…we just never got that far and I couldn’t wait anymore.
“I’m not dead yet,” my Mom insisted.
“I know,” I said. “That’s why I’m asking now. I don’t want to wait until it’s too late. I want to be sure we know the answers so that everything happens the way you want it to without any regrets or guilt.”
At first my Mom had no interest in the conversation. But I tried to convey that she’s still in complete control of her affairs— even if she feels she’s lost all control. I wanted her to know everything will happen exactly the way she wants it to. One by one, she started giving us answers. And the more she spoke, the easier it got to ask more questions. Asking those tough questions needs to be a priority. When the conversation was over I told everyone to put on jeans and a white shirt as I was up to something.
“Why the matching outfits?” they asked.
“Don’t ask questions,” I quipped.
Life is totally unpredictable. Things happen without warning. With that in mind, I had arranged for a professional photographer to come do a family photo session. Just as we don’t know when it’s too late to ask questions, we don’t know when it’ll be too late to take the family photo. None of us lives forever and we have no idea what our expiration date is. It’s important to take the opportunity while you still have it.
Here’s my advice: This holiday season, gather everyone while you have the chance. Don’t just take a selfie. Get a real photographer and capture the moment. It’s just like asking the tough questions— You won’t regret doing it, you’ll only regret not doing it. Look at the joy on my Mom’s face.
Ask the tough questions. Then take a family photograph.
Lila’s Health Report:
In order to stay healthy, you need to stay active and engaged. In addition to exercise, good nutrition and sleep, you also need a good dose of adventure. So each month I’ll share ways to boost the excitement and passion in your life with adventurous ways to create more wellness in your body, mind and your spirit.