Life provides many opportunities for parties, right? Birthday parties when you’re little. Birthday parties for your kids – one of the most stressful aspects of parenting imaginable in my books. We won’t count all those teen parties that your parents weren’t supposed to know about. Then there are engagement parties, weddings, and baby showers, not to mention these days also gender-reveal parties. There are farewell parties, retirement parties, and special anniversary celebrations. Lots of occasions for celebrating life’s passages, surrounded by friends and family.
Not so long ago we planned (and gave) a big party to celebrate our 50th anniversary, bringing together family and friends from far and near over many, many, … many decades. At that gathering, which was wonderful, my husband pointed out to everyone how much better it was to bring together the people who made a difference in our lives while we were all alive and could have fun together rather than wait for a funeral, as so often happens. This is so true, and he and I both encourage everyone to follow that philosophy.
However – and there’s always a however – some recent blogs by fellow bloggers have got me thinking about planning for another kind of party, and I’m already starting to think about the music for it, always an important ingredient for success. But let me back up a bit. One of the many nice things about blogging is that you “meet” other bloggers who become virtual friends. Not surprisingly, many of the blogs I follow are written by people who have either reached a phase of life similar to mine (gentle aging) or who see it on horizon and are doing lots of pondering about what their life has been like so far and what lies ahead. For those of you too busy to imagine having time to ponder anything at all, you have my sympathies. Eventually the time and mood will hit you and you will be surprised how rewarding these reflections can be.
This past week I’ve encountered blog posts from the blogosphere that have got me thinking about this (I know, you’re not sure what “this” is yet, but I’ll get there). The first blog post was by Molly Stevens at Shallow Reflections, a highly amusing post with the somewhat intimidating title of “Completing an advance directive can be fun”. An advance directive is another term for a living will, and she makes it very clear through humour why this is an important task, and why updating it from time to time is important – and fun. She also makes a very good case for planning your own after-life party (aka your funeral), which, for those of you who are impatient, is where I’m headed.
Another blogger I follow, John Persico, at Aging Capriciously, posted an intriguing article the other days entitled “3650”. He had determined through some actuarial tables that as a 72-year old American male, statistically he can expect to live to for another 10 years, hence the title 3650. He calculates that if he follows the route of the average man with his health profile he has 3650 days in which to – among other things – write blog posts. In the past two days he’s posted 3649 and 3648! Needless to say, this concept intrigued me.
Yes, I did check the actuarial tables for Canadian men and women, or at least a rough-estimate life expectancy calculator. According to this calculator, along with my other factors, if I never drink more than 2 alcoholic drinks a day, as a 73-year old female of a certain size, etc. I can expect to live to be 85.6. Interestingly, if I never drink any alcoholic drinks, I lose a full 1.1 years; I can only expect to live to be 84.5. I could write an entire blog post on the contradictions in that outcome, but I’ll just stick with no more than 2 drinks a day and aim for 85.6, or the possibility of living another 12 years. That’s another 4380 days. But, not to worry, I’m not planning on writing 4380 posts!
With this presumed cushion for planning my advance directive, including my final party, I could push it aside, but of course this calculator is all about statistics and averages, not about individual actualities. Another piece of information uncovered during my extensive (googling) research on life expectancies made me wonder about the urgency of my planning. It turns out that people age 65 and above believe that old age starts at age 74. This means I have 8 months before what I consider my Golden Years start (sorry, Francine Sullivan! 😉 ). Maybe I should at least wait until then?!
Seriously, I’m not going to wait at all. I wrote my medical wishes down and gave them to my husband and sons a few years ago, but as Molly Stevens points out, you can never be sure what will happen when you’re not in charge – perish the thought! I’m going to update my living will and perhaps add a few important details, such as wanting to have my 50s & 60s music playing if I somehow end up in a vegetative state despite all my other instructions. And I’m starting to plan my final party – my funeral – by choosing the music. I come from a family where we all sang. We sang in choirs, we gathered around the piano and sang. We thought everyone would want to do that once they realized how much fun it is. Incredibly, neither of my brothers or I managed to pass that love or inclination along to any of our kids (although I have some hope for the following generation). So you can see that the musical selections for this party are going to have to be up to me.
My first choice for my music is Let There Be Peace on Earth. It’s a song I sang in school choirs growing up on Long Island. Then I hadn’t heard it for years, until some years ago I saw Gen. Colin Powell on TV, leading the singing of it with masses of people gathered for the Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C. This song really speaks to me, but I’m not sure how many people know it. So I figure I have to get people hearing it and practicing it well in advance of my final party. You can practice with this YouTube video of Let There Be Peace on Earth.
I hope you all like my first choice for my music. What would you choose?
The next one I have in mind is another of my favourites, Dona Nobis Pacem, the round (YouTube video if you’d like to check it out: Dona Nobis Pacem). This one’s harder for people not used to singing rounds, so I’ll let you get used to Let There Be Peace on Earth first!!
And don’t forget to work on your advance directive!
p.s. There is an alternate version now that has replaced the word “brother” by “family” and “each other”, but it sounds kind of lame.