Difficult Conversations

In a marriage, there are difficult conversations that have nothing to do with children and money. In fact, I think the particular topic of my entry this morning is  a conversation that is one of the most difficult of all.

When you’re a newlywed, even when you’re getting closer to 40 (like the hubs and me), looking forward to a time when illness or death will become part of your circle of life is neither easy or a welcome thought. For most, it is so far away it almost seems impossible. You have decades together! Funeral and memorial arrangements, wills, advanced directives and do not resuscitate orders (DNR’s) are ugly words that two newly married people in Love don’t really want to bring up. And still, it is one of the single most important conversations you can have with your partner.

Now, this doesn’t just go for newlyweds. There are several people I know who are older and/or who have been married for plenty of years and still do not have these things in place. If you have children or plan on having children, this is most especially critical for you.

For those who have sworn off marriage, this is still for you, too!

For me, planning has been part of my life since I was eighteen years old and first diagnosed with cancer. Later in life, I was sick two more times then I was in a near fatal car accident. Two and a half years ago I was trapped in a 2-alarm fire. The fireman who rescued me carried me out of the building 53 seconds before the floor and ceiling collapsed. 53 seconds. And I’m a military wife. I believe many of us out there have had to have the conversation.

I don’t write any of this for shock factor. I am, in fact, one of the luckiest people on the planet. I write this because life is fleeting and many are denied the gift of another day. There are no guarantees other than the ones you make for yourself and your family while you’re still here.

Death is a part of life, but in most of the western world it is such a taboo topic. If we stop becoming afraid and take a bit of control, it doesn’t have to be scary.

I have always wanted a burial at sea. I have been a water baby since the moment I was born. Fish, sea mammals, coral…all of it – I knew when it was my time to pass over that is where I wanted to be. BUT… it is illegal. You can’t just float a body out to sea! I know my mother must think the way I describe it is so crass, so I will spare you details. I will write I have always wanted to carry on the circle of life under the water. I just didn’t know how.

After the fire, I knew burial was not for me. Being in an enclosed space like on that night – mentally I cannot wrap my head around it. I know what you might be thinking, “Heather. Ummm…you’ll be gone. You won’t know or care.” But I’ll know ahead of time. And I care now.

I also really struggled with the idea of cremation because of the smoke inhalation I sustained. I honestly thought of making arrangements to have my body flown to another country so it could legally be floated out to sea. No. I am not kidding.

Then a week and a half ago I was on Twitter and UberFacts Tweeted this:

I had no idea something like this existed. I looked into Eternal Reefs and immediately reached out to them via email. They sent me a beautifully written information packet with a DVD and answered all of my questions. While the above photo doesn’t necessarily look very attractive, Eternal Reefs has graciously granted me permission to use their photos:

The reefs can be customized with bronze plaques, hand-prints and heartfelt messages. They also give you the option of where you’d like your reef placed. This gave me peace of mind as I struggled for an answer to myself regarding my final wishes. It has helped me come to terms with cremation now and that is huge.

What a beautiful tribute to one’s life and to the environment. Coral reefs are in decline and if I can continue to help even after I am gone, that brings a smile to my face. It is a celebration of life going on in another way. It is my belief this should be the focus.

The hubs and I discussed this and the remains of two people can be married, if you will, into one reef. We’ve already begun the steps to arrange for this when it’s our time.

Eternal Reefs offers military honors, has payment plans and takes care of everything. I always said I wanted my memorial on a boat, with music and bright colors. That will come true (a long time from now)!

What you foresee may be very different, but I encourage each person reading this to invest in the paperwork to make your final wishes known. See an attorney or if that is not in your budget go to Office Depot and buy the legal forms and have them notarized. Have your physician put your orders in your chart so that they are on file. Go to the DMV and become an organ donor. Have the conversation. It only takes one time.

It is a gift to yourself and your loved ones. They are worth it. And so are you.