Death Happens While We’re Busy Making Other Plans

Whereas Prince did not have an estate plan before his untimely death, I am weirdly planning to be here today (in Phoenix) and gone tomorrow (to St. Louis). When my father takes his last breath this week or next, I anticipate that a part of my life will stop as he passes – rapidly moving from a state of living to mourning. Not only is death inconvenient, it’s awkward. Dad dreads waking up each day and realizing that he is still alive. In the back of Mom’s mind, she wonders if there isn’t a pill to make this all better. Needless to say, some states have such a pill. Was my faithful mother having second thoughts about the sin of euthanasia actually being a blessing for both the living and the dying?

I stand by the phone as my six siblings take turns watching over dad both day and night, torn between my duties as an ER doctor and doing my part as a family member. I am scheduled to be in St Louis next week to speak at a conference, but will Dad hold out that long? Is it practical to potentially fly back and forth three times over a span of 10 days? Is there anything that I might do that is not already being done? Is there something I still need to prove to Dad?  I recently had a reassuring phone conversation with him as we both shed a tear. If there was any doubt that I mattered to Dad, he poignantly placed those doubts to rest.

Now I wait – balancing my living with Dad’s dying and trusting that the universe has a larger plan that will work in my favor. Following a phone conversation with my sister, I realized that if fate works according to my schedule, it will undermine her best interests. Seemingly, Dad’s death has become a contest of wills. Which family member will prevail in the desire to have dad’s passing occur at their convenience? Battling forces that are out of anyone’s control creates the opportunity to balance yin and yang in order to achieve harmony. While Dad is actively letting go through a yang appeal, I uphold the yin part by attempting to play it cool and remain passive to any agenda.

Similar to the throes of dying, the lingering perception has existed that there was always something wrong with Dad. He was a great provider, but never measured up to the romanticized version of Ward Clever. He was a man of deep faith, few words and a quick temper. The process of dying likewise leaves people at a loss for words, triggering emotional outbursts. Despite my mother’s best efforts, my father never wavered in his ideology or behavior. His integrity was his greatest strength. Through the example of his life, he taught his children a profound lesson about death. Simply put: Take me as I am.   


There is a huge impetus to change the way we die in this country. The plan is to have more control over the situation and less acceptance of the process. We generally do not like to sit and wait, abiding in this yin state of mind, body and spirit. We are apt to become restless as the situation unfolds. We prefer to wonder while multitasking rather than using this waiting time as a purposeful period of deep reflection and appreciation. As I plan for my own death while living through my father’s passing, I am reminded to take life as it is and not as it was intended. There is no real plan for life except to love. Accordingly - love is patient, love is kind and love has no attachment to a sure plan. 


Some very unique perspectives on death here. What a breath of fresh air!

Posted by Harvey Meale

Being present in dying

I like what you say here. I have six siblings too and each one has their own particular relationship with the dying parent and with dying in general. My mother died five months after being diagnosed with primary liver cancer. As soon as I heard she had cancer I flew over to Germany to be with her. Her birthday was two weeks later. I asked what she wanted for her birthday and she said to be with all of us children and our dad in a farmhouse in the mountains beside a lake. We arranged that! It was the house she had wanted all her live but never had. It smelled of wood, was built of wood and was beautiful and spacious in the Alps of Bavaria next to Tegernsee. We all gathered there and wrote her a card with everyone having two pages to say what they appreciated about her. It was a great farewell gift. She died some months later with my elder sister and my dad and me at her side all week at a Steiner Hospital in the country, supported by homeopathic medicine. It was my sister's birthday, her first born. My father, sister and I set my her bed as she lay with her eyes closed in that semi sleeping state, whilst our father recounted how they first met and fell in love, aged 18 and 17. He was happy reliving the memories and soon after she stopped breathing. I think she chose her time to let go. I hope your father died well and all of you felt that the timing was right. He only dies once. Maybe your conference was no longer so important in the face of this.

Posted by Josefine Speyer