By Edie Weinstein
My friend Lisa Gidholm issued this invitation yesterday and it was one I couldn’t decline since death has been on my mind a great deal lately.
“I am looking for a Volunteer. This would be for a Legacy Project and would only require a one hour Zoom call preferably today Sunday July 5th. A Legacy Project is something created to leave for your loved ones when you die. You don’t in any way need to be near death, although that would be OK if you are. I would ask that you be willing to be open to the experience which can be emotional. I am currently enrolled in an End of Life Doula Program and this is an assignment for me. What you would receive would be a document that you could seal and have opened upon your death (or some people choose for it to be a conversation starter with family and loved ones). Although this document is for when you die – it is really about LIFE. A life review of sorts, an opportunity to express gratitude and record how you want to be remembered while you have time to reflect. It is a powerful exercise – life affirming and healing.”
I imagine that death has also been on the minds for many who are reading this article. In addition to the myriad ways people die every day, in accidents, as a result of a life well lived after eight or more decades, from murder to diseases that whisk them away, is the toll of an ever changing and menacing virus that has literally taken the world by storm. As of this writing over 500,000 have fallen to it. At 61, with a cardiac and respiratory condition, I am considered high risk. Since March, I have been hunkered down at home. I live alone but have supportive family and friends. I have availed myself of the marvels of modern technology and remain in contact via calls, texts, and Facetime. Zoom calls have become the ways in which I conduct business and a telehealth platform called doxy.me helps me to serve my psychotherapy clients. On the rare occasions I do venture forth, a mask and hand sanitizer are at the ready. I have a rotating number of them and wash them once I have used them. I have become accustomed to being in my haven home. Such an irony that this social butterfly is content to remain secluded, other than to see my son, daughter-in-law and five-month-old grandson and a few carefully chosen friends who I know have also been careful, with whom I sit physically distanced. Eleven weeks had passed before I had been with my family which was heart rending.
As far as I know, I am not about to cross the threshold into the next realm. I have had scares over the past few years and a GI episode last week that had me wishing I would be put out of my misery. Vomiting and uncontrollable tremors kept me up throughout the night. Since then I have felt physical exhaustion that had me spending much of holiday weekend in slumber. Finally, today, I feel some sense of normalcy, all the while wondering any time a disturbing symptom arose, was this it? Despite my precautions, did COVID-19 breech the defenses I had erected?
When Lisa reached out, I felt it was an important opportunity for me to face death head on. I had lost my beloved grandmother at four, my husband at 40, my parents at 50 and 52 and dear friends in the past few years. Through each adult experience, I was in professional mode, working with hospice and once they passed, I officiated at their services. In none of those experiences did I fully allow for grief to arrive. I know it has taken its toll on me, as I further suppress my feelings in service to working with clients who face grief on a regular basis.
Lisa is about to become death doula, what I call a midwife at the end of life. She is an ordained interfaith minister, so she has a grasp on the spiritual components of the death and dying process and the aftermath for family and friends. I knew she would handle our conversation with sensitivity. I was already preparing for it in my head because I am noticing more age-related fatigue, stiffness and brain fog. As my mother used to say, ‘my get up and go has got up and went’. There are times when I call people the wrong name even when I know their appellation. I verbally tap dance, roll my eyes and claim it is a middle age moment.
Once the interview started, the plans of what I wanted to say went out the window in favor of what was so for me in the moment. I didn’t want to have a canned presentation. I told her that there are days when I am ready to just lay it all down in the presence of family and friends and pass peacefully. Sweet music would be playing as it was for my friend Ondreah when she died in 2018. I held her as she took her final breath and saw her on her way. Please don’t misconstrue my statement; I am not expressing suicidality. I am indicating that I don’t fear death. Having had clear and certain contact with those who are now on the Other Side, it tells me that they are well and are a consistent presence in my life, in dreaming and waking hours. I want my service to be a celebration of life, with lots of music, dancing, chocolate and of course, hugging. Some of the most impactful memorial services I have conducted included some of those elements. I want those who remain on this side of the veil know how much they were treasured and what a difference they have made in my life. I will be watching over them as I feel those who left the planet before me do for me.
I am writing my Last Will and Testament, leaving nearly everything to my son, with the exception of books and some décor that wouldn’t interest him since they represent his ‘weird hippie mom,’ as he refers to me and her interests. These are the ultimate questions I will ponder:
- If you were asked to describe what you would want your death to be like, what would you say?
- If you could have your ideal service what elements would it contain?
- Who would you want with you at your time of passing?
- Who would be present to celebrate your life?
- How would you like to live the next portion of your life until you move on?
Lisa inquired what legacy I would want to leave for my darling grandson and that came without hesitation. I would like him to know that he is loveable, and loving, creative, intelligent, compassionate and caring toward himself and others. I encourage him to follow his passions and dreams, speak his mind and heart and grow to be a man of honor. No surprise that those were the values, attributes and experiences I wished for his father. I am delighted to say that he has fulfilled those dreams.
REV. EDIE WEINSTEIN, MSW, LSW
Love Ambassador, Opti-Mystic & Bliss Mistress
Edie delights in inviting people to live rich, full, juicy lives. She is an internationally recognized, sought after, colorfully creative journalist, interviewer, author and editor, a dynamic and inspiring speaker, licensed social worker and interfaith minister, BLISS coach, event producer, certified Laughter Yoga Leader, certified Cuddle Party facilitator, and Cosmic Concierge. Edie is the founder of Hug Mobsters Armed with Love, which offers FREE HUGS events world- wide on a planned and spontaneous basis. For more than three years, she was the host of the Vivid Life Radio show called It’s All About Relationships.
She speaks on the subjects of wellness, relationships, trauma recovery, addiction, mental health, spirituality, sexuality, loss and grief.
Edie is the author of The Bliss Mistress Guide To Transforming the Ordinary Into the Extraordinary and co-author of Embraced By the Divine: The Emerging Woman’s Gateway to Power, Passion and Purpose. She has also contributed to several anthologies and personal growth books, including Taming the Anger Dragon: From Pissed Off to Peaceful.
Over the past 30 years, she has had the honor of interviewing His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Louise Hay, Judith Orloff, Debbie Ford, Arielle Ford, don Miguel Ruiz, Wayne Dyer, Bernie Siegel, Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, Marianne Williamson, Grover Washington, Jr., Dan Millman, Ram Dass, Olympia Dukakis, Shirley MacLaine, Dennis Weaver, Mariel Hemingway, Ben & Jerry and SARK.
In the last four decades, she has worked with those who have been diagnosed with life-altering conditions, including mental health issues, cardiac disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, infertility, end-stage conditions, eating disorders, addiction, traumatic brain injury, stroke, depression, and anxiety. She focuses on her clients’ resilience and assists them in developing a solid toolkit of coping skills. As both a clinician and a patient, she is aware of what it is like to be on the other side of the treatment relationship and can be of service to the patient, their caregivers, as well as the treatment team. Edie can address the issues that arise such as body image, trauma, sexuality, relationship changes, vulnerability, change in physical or cognitive ability, aging, end of life issues, and communicating needs.
If you want to:
- Embrace life fully
- Release patterns that have kept you from moving forward
- Re-write the narrative to create the life of your dreams and desires
- Enhance your relationships
- Become an Opti-Mystic who sees the world through the eyes of possibility
“Contact me today to see how I can meet the needs of your organization, publication or the person who looks back at you when you gaze in the mirror.”