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All too many times overwhelmed caregivers are physically and emotionally depleted and need to take time to rest and care for themselves. Believing in a holistic approach to caregiver stress and a strong commitment to helping our members find the right solutions, we created this blog to help you connect with others who, like you, may be facing the same eldercare issues and challenges. Feel free to comment, ask questions, and submit articles. Please forward the blog link to your family and friends. They'll be glad you did.

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Patricia Grace
founder & CEO
Aging with Grace

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Secret Gift
by Stephen Gilbert

This is a Hopi symbol called “The Man in aMaze.” I love this symbol in light of the my work.

Technically this image is not a “maze.” It is a labyrinth. The difference is that a maze is a puzzle designed to trick and be deceiving. There are dead ends and wrong turns. But a labyrinth is not a puzzle. As one moves through a labyrinth all one must do is keep moving, and the destination will always be reached. There are no dead ends or wrong turns. In a metaphorical sense, a labyrinth is a journey whose end is certain. There is one way in, and one way out.

As a person that assists others in planning and funding their end-of-life events, I find this image and the notion of a labyrinth compelling.

As human beings we are all on our journey. Each of them is different, yet occasionally our journeys cross paths. Relationships are formed, and they become part of our journey. Dreams sometimes motivate us along them way. Risks are taken, or not. Sometimes we fail at what we set out to do; other times we succeed. Yet, it is all the same journey, and if we but keep moving, the end is certain.

I have met many people in the work I do that say something like this: “I don’t want to be a burden on my family, just cremate me and dump me out,” or “I don’t want a fuss made over me, just get it over with.”
Let be clear here. Whatever is done after your death is not about you. It is solely for those that remain after your death. What might they need? How will they manage this time? You certainly get to make the decision about what you want to happen, but will the decision be based upon what they will need the most, or upon your desire to avoid being a burden?

Here’s a thought. They love you. Just like you love them. When you go, they will grieve, and you don’t really have a say in that. It will be a burden, it is painful, and it is a part of their journey through the labyrinth of their life. No one likes this part, but everyone will go through it.

I know that the statements I refer to above come from a place of love, but sometimes the expectation of future pain skews our decision-making and planning.

So. The crucial questions in planning are these: 

What can I do to make this time in the lives of my family and friends as meaningful as possible.  
  1. What will they want or need to do when I die?  
  2. What parts can I take care of now so they won’t have to manage it during a difficult emotional time for them.  
  3. How do I want to be remembered? What is my legacy?  
  4. What can I do now that will demonstrate my love for them after I am gone?

The answers to these questions become a way to impact each of your loved one’s journey in a loving and significant way. The answers don’t avoid the hard reality of your death and their grief, but they open the door to your love touching them even after your death. The answers become a part of their labyrinth.

And these are the questions I encourage people to engage when we discuss the events following their death. It is a difficult conversation. No one really like considering these things. But by avoiding it, you ignore the opportunity to extend your love to them in a uniquely powerful and important way. I like to call it the “Secret Gift.” It gets unwrapped only after you are gone. Love never dies.


Read my blog at stevegilbertsblog.blogspot.com. I welcome comments about this article or anything on my blog. I work with folks all over the country, helping them with end-of-life planning. You can email me at: segilbert.fia@gmail.com.

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