Earlier this week, as I lay iced up on the therapy table after my session, I overheard a light-hearted laugh and discussion about plans for something that involved what I imagined to be a pretty hefty amount of cash. Having only caught the last exchange of the entire conversation due to unintentional proximity, I was struck by the gist of the ending phrase as the parties were walking past my doorway and continuing on about their day. All that I could hear being said was “… might as well, you can’t take it with ya.” Now it’s not that I have never heard this saying before. In fact, very likely I have heard it hundreds, if not thousands, of times. But that day, it registered in my mind with a completely different reaction as any other time. Maybe it was the light-hearted giggle and soft tones, or maybe it was the representative acceptance of what I now imagined the meaning that this common phrase infers.
Having worked as a nurse for over 25 years, I have been exposed to the traumatic effects of the loss of independence and death. I have witnessed the impact of these events on patients, their families, loved ones and friends in a multitude of settings, circumstances and degrees of intensity too broad to include in this forum. In all of this time however, there were very few, if any, references to any material assets which would not be taken “with ya.” There are, unfortunately, innumerous examples I can remember that involved the inability and unpreparedness to accept the new reality that had now been forced upon the present.
But when we say the phrase “you can’t take it with ya,” it seems there is an undeniable acceptance of death or changed realities already so well in hand that that it can be so casually joked about. Why, then, is the reaction so intense for the grief stricken who are seemingly left helpless at this change in condition when it becomes a reality? Why is the reality of “can’t take it with ya” such an unimportant consideration until death becomes impossible to avoid?
The answer for myself is that I never want to imagine the “with” part of that statement. I personally have filled out my Will and Five Wishes forms. I write these blogs hoping to get others to address the possibilities of “with” before it becomes “now.” I still don’t feel very casual about the “with.”
But this fact has not stopped me from recognizing the importance of planning for the time when I have lost my independence and have left this world and my family and friends to remain and deal with my departure in however they best can. (One glimpse of this inevitability came just last month when I underwent a right posterior total hip repair.) No one gets to choose how they die. Very few know when. Even fewer look forward to it sincerely. But there is nothing in this world stopping anyone from discussing how they may wish to be cared for in the event of a loss of independence, on any level, or how they would like to be treated and have their physical body and material things handled when that “with” finally becomes “now”.
Please, by all means with every breath of your life, hope for the best. But my friends, please also strive for happiness, love, and compassion in the world around you. Perhaps more importantly, be prepared for the worst. Discuss your wishes, feelings, and beliefs with your family, friends, and loved ones. Get as much in writing and scanned into medical records backed up by legal consents and authorizations in the hope to lessen the tragic impact of inevitable changes on you and those you love. Don’t let the burden of “with” become someone else’s problem “now.”
Written by James Desiderati