Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My dying wish

I am a planner.  I like to have things thought out ahead of time.  But, as I have no plans to die anytime soon (that pounding you hear is me knocking every piece of wood around me), I have no deathbed request prepared, nor do I have farewell letters written for those closest to me.  I have prepared no sealed envelopes filled with instructions to be delivered to my dearest friends after I'm gone that will pressure them with the power of postmortem guilt to carry out some endeavor that they otherwise never would've done.  And, if I did, I'm fairly certain that any instructions I did leave would not have the powerful ability to change my friends' lives for the better. (In fact, for any of my friends reading this there is only thing I ask of you in the awful possibility that I do die unexpectedly: Please, for the future happiness and well-being of my daughters, stop by the  house once in a while and make sure their hair is brushed because without your help it's just not going to get done.) 
All this is to say that I have felt ill-prepared when reading several books lately in which the main characters have changed their friends' lives from beyond the grave.  Perhaps there's something transcendent about approaching the end of life that brings a clarity about your own life and those of your friends.  In The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendshipwhen 38-year-old Rachel Braun died of cancer she left behind instructions for her three best friends.  The formerly close friends had drifted apart, each getting further stuck in the rut of her life, until Rachel's instructions shocked them into action.  Whether something as seemingly simple as skydiving or as difficult as raising her daughter, the women were compelled to do things that both brought them together and helped them move forward in their individual lives.  In Second Time Around, a group of four best friends from college have a summer vacation together every year -- until one of them dies.  In this case, the dearly departed was also quite wealthy and left a substantial amount to each of her friends with the instructions that the money be used to fulfill her life's dream.  (And, again, to my friends: I haven't got a few million stashed away.  Will you still please brush my girls' hair?) 

Kindred Spirits, by The Cinderella Pact and Bubbles Unbound author Sarah Strohmeyer, picks up the mantle of this theme.  After a long battle with cancer, Lynne leaves instructions for her friends to find the daughter she placed for adoption as a teenager. Along the ensuing roadtrip, the women find out about each other, their inner strengths, and some mean martini recipes.  Another new title out, Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister focuses on a group of friends in which the cancer patient survives her battle, but then issues challenges to a group of friends to do something scary or difficult in their lives over the next year. 

Bottom line?  It might not be the most original theme around, and they certainly make me feel both unprepared and less than profound, but there's something interesting to consider.  They are about making positive changes in your life; living, as Gandhi suggested, "as if you were to die tomorrow."  What would be the one thing that would change your life?

1 comment:

kristin said...

Another great book is "The Household Guide to Dying"...really good :)