A Story About Preparing for My Mom’s End of Life

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Chris and his mother, Anna
Chris Thompson
Chris Thompson with Reimagine

December 21, 2022

Dear Reimagine Community,

My name is Chris, and I am the Director of Development for Reimagine. Last week, I began sharing my story of recently losing my mother to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Her funeral was on Friday, just three days ago. I have never cried so much as I did that day, and there were so many mixed emotions behind my tears. I mourned her loss. I was remorseful when reflecting if I–as her primary caregiver–had truly done all I could. I was relieved knowing my mother would no longer suffer from various health complications, spending her days hooked up to life-preserving equipment. And then, I discovered I was underlyingly resentful that all the people who showed up to honor her life had truly no idea of the physical, financial, mental, and emotional toll it took to be her primary caregiver, health proxy, and funeral coordinator while being present and providing for my own family.

As my mother neared her end of life, I learned how little she had in place, including no life insurance and no income. And when it came to her end-of-life plan, we knew only two things: she didn’t want to be cremated, and she wanted to be buried in a metal casket. In the final few months, every member of her treatment team began to ask: “Does your mom have a living will?” The answer was no. Not having a living will or end-of-life plan created immense stress and anxiety, leaving room for disagreements that could have easily overshadowed my mom’s life and legacy. In the end, I made the best decisions I could based on the information I had.

When it came time to plan for her funeral, more unanswered questions began to arise. What dress would she wear in the casket? How would her hair and makeup be styled? What cemetery would we choose, and where would the burial plot be located? It was a lot, and I am still navigating many unknowns, even after the funeral.

This experience–though immensely challenging–has opened important conversations in my own family and provided an opportunity for my wife and me to express our own end-of-life desires, normalize mortality, and ensure that our children are more prepared than we were. As a parent, I initially thought I was protecting my three children from the death of their grandmother, Titi, as they called her, by keeping them in the dark and not sparking dialogue around these painful and heavy experiences. However, I learned through this experience that children need closure and clarity. They deserve the right to choose how they would like to participate and, as parents, it is our responsibility to claim our own end-of-life wishes so that the burden does not fall on our kids.

I am writing to you today with a heartfelt desire that my experience may serve as inspiration for you to have important conversations around end-of-life planning and loss. Too often, there is a stigma around this challenging dialogue, leaving individuals and families unprepared, and unfortunately–like in my situation–feeling resentful and unsupported.

Did you know that 90% of people think it is important to talk about end-of-life wishes with their loved ones, but only 27% have these conversations? At Reimagine, we aim to reduce this gap by creating safe spaces and sharing resources to help people have these challenging conversations around planning for serious illness, dying and death, and the other hard parts of life. It feels like serendipity that I recently joined the Reimagine team, as I am now able to see firsthand why this work is so vital and share that message forward with you.

If you are looking for somewhere impactful to make your tax-deductible end-of-year donations, I hope you will consider Reimagine. Your gift will ensure that our non-profit can expand our reach and provide opportunities for diverse communities to engage in crucial dialogue about mortality and what it means to prepare, to honor those we love and those we've lost, and to live fully now and through the end.

More soon,
Chris

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