Remains To Be Seen

Adrienne Crowther

Adrienne Crowther

Let’s face it – no one likes to talk about death. Whether it’s our own, our parents, a spouse, or a friend, it hasn’t been a conversation topic of choice…..until now. Not surprisingly, we baby boomers are re-inventing our end of life practices and attitudes around death.

Here are the facts:

  • Cremation rates have soared to more than 40% of all deaths (close to 90% in some states)
  • Burial costs have reached high, sometimes unaffordable levels
  • Families are transient, and family members no longer live in close proximity to each other, nor to a family burial site
  • Religious tenets are more flexible regarding cremation as an option for disposition

Many recent articles, books, and other media point toward the growing number of cremations, both in the US and worldwide. Baby boomers especially, are breaking tradition in their spiritual beliefs, environmental convictions, and affinity toward individuality in all aspects of life. The funeral industry concedes to this rapid conversion to cremation, yet products for containment of cremation remains are limited, and are often mass-produced and outsourced.

Shine on Brightly

Shine on Brightly

Shine On Brightly is an online company that was launched in 2008 – the result of a lifelong passion for art, love for people and their stories, and lots of research on the changing trends around life and death rituals (especially among baby boomers). Fifteen months later, Founder and Owner, Adrienne Crowther lost her husband of 30 years. Nine months after that, his sister, who had been one of her dearest childhood friends, also died.  Adrienne’s work and business is truly unique and I thought it appropriate to address this subject for our oops50.blog.

Annice and dad

Annice and dad

What are your plans? When my own father died in 2011, I was grateful that he had taken care of all his burial plans.  Everything carefully outlined and paid for- in advance.  What a gift that was to all of us.  And what an alternative Adrienne has to offer to both the living  who want to plan their end of life rituals, or for those who will be making arrangement for their  loved ones.

Mindfulness

Nancy

I’m looking out at horses standing in the pasture.  No, they are not at the farm in Rocky Mount.  They are at my farm in Hillsborough.  I am going through a divorce, and they are the first group that has come to live with me.  Life is pretty crappy and hard right now, not just mentally but especially physically, but as I stand here, I am in awe of the beauty of it all.   The pasture slopes downhill and is surrounded by woods through which I can see more of my hay fields.  Despite the trials of daily life, I feel happy, blessed.

The next day, I catch the end of a Diane Rehm show about mindfulness and the power of thought.  The day after that I listen to the show in its entirety: an interview with Ellen Langer, a Harvard professor who writes about mindfulness in a new book.   She did a study years ago where she took a group of old men and isolated them for five days and turned back time.  They only watched movies from a certain era and basically lived as they had in the past.  When they emerged from the study, they were reinvigorated and stronger, with eyesight and hearing improved, and they looked younger.  It was the power of their minds that gave them that strength.  (I was also delighted to hear her describe this group as such old men that she actually wondered if they would make it through the five days, and here was the kicker: she said they were not like now, when 60 is the new 40.  Does that make me 45?)

horses in field

She also talked about how anger and despair can be so physically debilitating and how most of the things we struggle against aren’t true tragedies but merely inconveniences.  If we can bring ourselves to a neutral place, we will feel so much better and be able to see more clearly ways to handle our demons.   I have always been one to be thankful for dodging those bullets I didn’t even realize were there.   Maybe I dodged a bullet by leaving my husband.  No, make that a full speeding train, but that conversation is for another time.

I encourage everyone to hear Ellen Langer tell it herself.  Here is the link:

http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2014-12-01/ellen_langer_mindfulness_and_the_power_of_thought

 

SENIORS WHO SPELL

Audrey Fischer Partington

Audrey Fischer Partington

They came from all over the county to participate in a Senior Spelling Bee, sponsored by the Friends of the Montgomery County (Maryland) Public Library.

But this was not a competition for high school seniors. Competitors were seniors citizens. You know, the generation born before spell check. The folks who learned to read phonetically, and who memorized rules like “i before e, except after c, or when sounding like ay as in neighbor or sleigh.”

Yes, those seniors.

Some came in wheelchairs from a nearby assisted living facility. What they lacked in physical ability they made up for in mental agility. A few were retired English teachers. But what they had in common was the love of words and libraries.

“Public libraries are one of the best things about America,” said a competitor whose first language was not English.

Senior Spelling Bee

Senior Spelling Bee

The joy of browsing the library shelves may be lost on younger generations for whom “googling” too often replaces a visit to the library.

Another lost art is etymology (word origins). Contestants not only asked for words to be repeated, defined or use in a sentence, but their place of origin, which can provide clues to their correct spelling.

Phonics and etymology have been replaced with … “magic spelling.” My daughter was introduced to this approach when she started first grade in 1992.  In a desire to get young children comfortable with writing, teachers told them not to worry about spelling correctly.

Okay. That made some sense, but why not at least correct the misspelled words for the child’s edification? Unfortunately, the writing and spelling methodologies of the day childwithtrophycoincided with the self-esteem movement. You know, “No Child Left Without a Trophy.”

And also lost to posterity is cursive writing. How are future historians going to decipher primary source documents written in cursive?

Oh, of course, they’ll be an app for that!

 

 

Audrey:  I’m a writer-editor with nearly 35 years spent working in the federal government. When I think I began working for the government at the tail end of the Carter administration, it really does seem like a lifetime ago. In a way, it was a lifetime ago. I’ve since married and raised a wonderful daughter with my husband, with whom I now share our empty nest. Our baby bird flew across the pond to live with her British husband. So, to keep up with her life, I got on Facebook, where I have since reconnected with many old friends from my childhood in Brooklyn, New York, as well as from my other walks of life. Most recently, I had the joy of reconnecting with Annice, who launched this blog. It should feel like a lifetime ago since we met in our twenties, but happily, it’s like time never passed. That’s one of the secrets of getting older—the face and body may change, but at heart you may remain very much the same.

 

 

Saturday Mornings

Oops50 has a new guest writer:  Noriko Bell!  I hope everyone will welcome her warmly!  Jane

nori detail studio

Noriko is a 57-year old living in Washington, DC with her partner, Dan, and two cats, Louie and Lulu. A creative product development manager for art museum retail, she enjoys dabbling in writing, gardening, cooking, violin, piano. To quote Noriko, she has “many inspirations and ambitions, but not much follow through!”  I would disagree, since she followed through on sending us her first post for the blog!! Here’s her post: 

I used to spend Saturday mornings running errands, doing chores. Then I realized that most stores are crowded with long lines on Saturdays, traffic is miserable, and why am I doing all this anyway?

I decided to switch gears and use Sunday for my errands. Saturday morning is a cherished time, recovering from the work week, having an extra cup of coffee and reading the paper from cover to cover, while my cats lounge about, happy to have a human at home. nori detail

Most of the time, I snuggle back in bed with coffee, laptop, phone and thoroughly enjoy catching up in a leisurely way. Our cats, Lulu and Louie gravitate to the bedroom on those mornings. Both sleep away the morning and I relish the calm coziness.  This time of year, the upstairs bedroom is the warmest room in the house, with sunlight pouring in through the south facing windows.

Louie Fat Cat

Louie Fat Cat

This is my refuge. I once made it into a self sufficient space with a small fridge, microwave, when I was a full time caregiver at home, and it was essential that I could maintain some separation and me time.

Sometimes I wonder if I have become a complete slack, my leisure time at home built around the command station of the bed. But then, I “think” like a cat, and with a big stretch, ease into a little nap.

Lulu Fat Cat

Lulu Fat Cat

 

A Hero for our Time: Joanna Macy

Jane in Africa 2012

This morning, while dealing with a crazy, incessantly barking dog,  I listened to “On Being” with Krista Tippett.  Her guest was an “environmental philosopher,” Joanna Macy.  I was only half listening at first, since I had never even heard of this woman before, but the interview ended up blowing me away.  Macy is an 85-year-old woman who sounds like a twenty-year-old in her wonderful, enlightened thinking.  Here’s a quick bio of Macy from Wikipedia:

Joanna Rogers Macy (born May 2, 1929), is an environmental activist, author, scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. She is the author of eight books. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1950 and received her Ph.D in Religious Studies in 1978 from Syracuse University.  She is an international spokesperson for anti-nuclear causes, peace, justice, and environmentalism, most renowned for her book Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World….She has created a theoretical framework for personal and social change, and a workshop methodology for its application. Her work addresses psychological and spiritual issues, Buddhist thought, and contemporary science.

And here is her picture:

Joanna Macy

Joanna Macy

But I wasn’t blown away by this woman because of her impressive resume or her open appearance.  I was blown away by the things she said.  First, she talked about how Buddhists don’t put much stock in trying to have hope, since it takes too much effort.  The important thing is just to be as aware as we can of what is going on around you.  She said that our earth is “not a supply house and a sewer” for humans, and that we have to stop treating it as if it is.

Here’s another great picture of her:

joanna macy laughing

All I can give you is a quick intro to Macy, but I urge our readers to check her out.  Here are two more quotes that I wrote down from when she was talking about her work in  translating Rainer Marie Rilke’s Book of Hours:  Love Poems to God:  “There is a song that wants to be sung through us, but we need to be present to it in order to sing it,” and “This moment you are alive, so you can just dial up the magic of that any time.” Continue reading