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  1. Section Editor(s): Ufema, Joy RN, MS

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I work in a long-term-care facility. Many of the residents have lived here for years, but only a few have made funeral arrangements, even though they see fellow residents die. Do you think the nursing staff needs to initiate a conversation about this? -J. E., MISS.


Because this is such personal business, I'd want to know what the harm is of avoiding the task. There's a saying that man can no more look steadily at death than he can stare at the sun. Some people simply choose to ignore their mortality and leave the "final arrangements" to others. At worst, the survivors will be left to make decisions more in line with their own wishes than that of the deceased.


I have a friend whose father owned an auto repair business and did all the ordering, billing, and bookkeeping. Shortly before his planned retirement, he was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder. When he learned that his condition was terminal, he assured everyone that the business was in order. But after his death, the family found to their dismay that he hadn't kept up with invoices, orders, or bills. The business was a mess.


In contrast, another acquaintance who learned that she had pancreatic cancer began planning the dispersal of her possessions, even labeling each piece of furniture with the intended heir's name. She also planned her funeral down to the last detail, including who could take home the floral arrangements. She went so far as to place tip money in an envelope for the waitress at the after-funeral luncheon.


So you see, some of us can look more steadily at the "sun" than others. We all cope with our impending mortality in different ways, and it would be unkind to make a judgment.