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Growing up? Growing old? Discussions about dying are tough but necessary

Have you found yourself “adulting”? Or, do you respond to the phrase “millennial”? Maybe you think of yourself as “middle-aged”? If you fall into one of these categories, you may have also noticed that your parents are getting older. They realize it, you realize it, but often nobody wants to talk about it. It seems weird. Awkward. Vulnerable.

It’s possible your parents want to open up to you about it. You don’t have to listen—you can deflect. You’re too old to listen “just because they said so.” But you’re also old enough to recognize that they are in the planning stages and engage in a gentle, mature discussion about their wishes and feelings.

They’re not planning like when you went to college, nor is it like planning a weekend with the grandchildren. They’re planning for their end-of-life needs, and even if you feel uncomfortable talking—or just thinking—about it, it may be time to listen. Otherwise, how will you honor their wishes, and their life, when they are gone? As people age, they grow in wisdom. Parents gain lots of wisdom raising children, but once their children are adults, they don’t stop growing in wisdom.

They are processing, thinking about the big questions, deciding some of the most important questions of their life—and their eternal life. They are facing a part of their heritage that will remain for the generations. Their burial could be one of the most important long-term decisions they make. They are vulnerable. And so are you. Now is the time to open up to them, allow yourself to be vulnerable with your parents (even though it’s hard), and really honor them by listening to their wishes.

This is your chance to respond honestly to the questions they have for you—the questions that will help them determine how to best honor you when you celebrate their life and their passing—and make a plan for burial. Catholic Cemeteries of Northeast Kansas, a nonprofit ministry that is part of the Archdiocese of Kansas, can help with this journey and ensure that the most important considerations are included in these decisions. Catholic Cemeteries’ experienced counselors provide their own wisdom, support you in your vulnerability, and create a plan that establishes an appropriate celebration of life and opportunity to mourn for a loved one so you don’t find yourself emotionally overwhelmed and exhausted in the rush of decisions that comes when families put off tough decisions for another day.

If you don’t know how to approach the subject, chances are your parents are feeling the same way. Maybe they have brought it up before. Skirted the issue. Hinted about it. Watch for these opportunities, and engage with them. Better yet, share this blog with them. If they’re not tech savvy, print it out and leave it in the kitchen or by the recliner. Highlight a couple of phrases. Let them know you’re there for them. Face the unknown, and walk away with a strengthened bond. Don’t wait until your loved ones are gone to wonder how they might have liked to be remembered.

Would you like to share a comment, question or experience regarding pre-planning? Visit our Facebook page, @cathcemks, to join the conversation. Or, send me an email at [email protected].

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