“Do It Again…” Steely Dan, November 1972

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

How normal is it these days to pre-plan and pre-pay for funerals? Have you done so? My mother and my aunt planned and paid for my grandmother’s funeral before my grandmother passed from this life. There were several reasons, but mainly, they knew their decisions would be made with a clear mind. My sisters and I decided we should follow their example and do the same for our Mom. I cannot imagine having to make all the funeral decisions for Mom in a fresh state of sadness. We had to do that for our dad in November 2000, even though his wife made most of the decisions. So we set up a meeting for last Friday afternoon at the funeral home we knew Mom would choose.

“Life is what you celebrate. All of it. Even its end.” Joanne Harris

I got to Winston early so I could visit with Mom before our meeting. Took her to the ice cream parlor in her building for a cone of chocolate soft serve. Oh it was so good! And since it was such a beautiful day, we went outside, traveling all around the grounds, looking at plants and people and just talking. Ended up on the porch and visited for a bit more before I had to leave to meet my sisters for our “planning” appointment. It has been 19 years since we looked at funeral expenses and boy, were our eyes opened! We were presented with a pre-planning packet of options and costs. The first page listed the base price which did not seem too bad, UNTIL, we discovered right quickly that the casket, liner, embalming, grave preparation, and a host of other charges were NOT included in this amount. We were then taken into the casket room where we were immediately overwhelmed by the many options of wooden, steel, and stainless steel caskets. I found a Carolina Blue one I thought was very nice, but my sisters overruled that choice. They said I could have it when my time comes. We finally decided on a lovely feminine one for mom, White Sand (which I thought was a good sign) complete with the beautiful Moravian Seal. The seal was a no charge item since the funeral home founder was a Moravian. Did you know that you have to have not only a casket, but a concrete vault that the casket fits into for burial? Most cemeteries, including the one at our church, require these. Thankfully, there were 3 of us working together on all of the decisions. “Together” being the operative word here. Lots of decisions & $$$ later we left, feeling relieved to have this process behind us.

“If ever there is tomorrow when we are not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.” A. A. Milne (Winne the Pooh)

Remember last Wednesday when I was “patiently” waiting on my doctor to review the MRI on my formerly good knee, which is now my bad knee, and give me the results, good or bad? Lo and behold he called me to come in late Wednesday afternoon and gave me the good news – SURGERY! Yes, that is good news to me. I want my knee back to normal. Surgery will not be as invasive as last April’s surgery was on my other knee. This time it will only be a clean up of my torn meniscus. Might not even need to be on crutches for more than a couple of days. Good thing, since I don’t want to miss any Carolina home football games. So thankful!

“Sometimes the best thing you can do is not think, not wonder, not imagine, not obsess. Just breathe, and have faith that everything will work out for the best.”

I decided I needed to celebrate the good news. As it was such a gorgeous day, I decided to go out to King Family Vineyards and enjoy the live music and have a glass of wine. Plus, I needed to get some wine for the upcoming weekend (sister time!). There were lots of young families with lots of kids running around playing, while their parents visited over a bottle of wine with friends. Then there was the “older” set where I fell, listening to the live music and enjoying a glass of wine. And missing my wine buddy, my younger daughter. As did the staff at KFV. They sent her well wishes. Me too!

“No matter what happens, no matter how far you seem to be away from where you want to be, never stop believing that you will somehow make it.”

As I said last week, running is out for now, so I decided Wednesday night after my King Family Vineyard visit that I would make the trip Thursday morning to my daughter’s cycle class in Richmond at 6:15 am. So glad I did! After class, I got to see my sweet granddawg and after being slobbered, shed, and loved on, I followed my daughter to see her new house. I was amazed at the progress since my last visit. They are getting close now… down to about 4 weeks until they will be reunited with all of their worldly possessions (stored in my living room, basement, and garage) and move into their dream home. And my home will return to normal, just in time for the holidays!

And today, I am also returning to normal. After the funeral planning appointment last Friday, I headed to Surfside beach. Arrived in time to order takeout from Bubbas. They have the best clam chowder. Saw my favorite waitress who said, “when I saw that takeout order I thought it was you, but it wasn’t your name. You didn’t get married, did you girl?” “Nope, just reclaimed my maiden name.” “Good girl!” We had bonded before I became SOLO, but even more so after. I’ve gotten a lot of takeout from Bubbas throughout the years, but sometimes I’ll eat at the bar and visit. Friday night was so beautiful, I decided to eat outside on my porch, breathing in that wonderful salty beach air. Saturday was even more beautiful. My younger sister got to the beach house in the morning and we spent the entire day on the beach. Sunny, no humidity, gentle breeze, 80 degrees. Heavenly. Older sister arrived Sunday morning. Another gorgeous October day on the beach. Another day to let the beach and salt water heal everything. And it did. Sisters on the beach. Oh and a SHARK! Yep, we saw a large shark in the shallow part of the ocean. Everyone on the beach gathered to watch this shark swim around and around. This is why even though I love the ocean, I do not go in past my ankles. Remember the movie JAWS? I took my younger sister to that movie back in 1975 and she has not been in the ocean since! She was 12 years old and is now… 50-something!

October is such a great time of year at the beach. Crowds are gone, temperatures are lower and there is no humidity. My sisters and I ate dinner outside at Dead Dog Saloon Sunday night and enjoyed not only a great dinner but a great band. Plus we enjoyed the Harvest moon over Murrells Inlet. Honestly, we enjoyed just being together. Said that Mom would love seeing us together. She loved her sister dearly, and they too did so much together. She would be so thankful that her girls are following in her footsteps. It was truly a beautiful night. We did have a purpose and plan for being at the beach besides soaking up the sun and eating out. We went to Kiawah Monday for some pre-wedding planning for my son’s wedding next year, and to Charleston Tuesday to celebrate our older sister’s birthday. More on those adventures next week! But I can tell you it was great fun!

“Sisters make the bad times good and the good times unforgettable.”

This visit, I also got to hang a new sun catcher in my beach house. This was given to me by the parents of my late childhood friend. Before visiting mom last Friday, I stopped in to visit them, and it was such a delight. My friend’s mom was like a second mom to me growing up. I spent as much time at their house as I did my own. Plus, she took us to the beach when we were in junior high and high school and totally boy crazy! I know we drove her crazy! Told her we loved boys so much because neither of us had brothers (we both had 2 sisters). Made sense to me! Just as I had my 43-year high school reunion last weekend, they were having their 64th high school reunion Friday night and expecting about 17 classmates to attend. Imagine that! Like my classmates, they also have reunions each year. Seems to be the trend these days. I left their house with a Christmas sweater one of her daughters sent me (it will show up this year in the 25 days of Christmas Sweaters!) and the sun catcher in memory of their sweet daughter and my friend. I also have one at my house in Charlottesville. As the sun hits the catcher, Luanne’s smile is seen in a rainbow of colors. I love having this one at the beach house, so appropriate, as my early memories of beach trips revolve around our families vacationing together at Surfside Beach.

“Things end, but memories last forever.”

When I became SOLO 3 years ago, the first thing I did was change my will, establish a power of attorney, and a living will or advance directive.  At that time, I thought I wanted to be buried in God’s Acre at my home church in Winston-Salem, New Philadelphia Moravian Church, and had that stipulated in my will. But as these past 3 years have evolved, so have I. Now I know that I want to be cremated with my ashes spread at the beach. This was a big decision for me, one I did not make lightly.

“Just before I die, I am going to swallow a bag of popcorn kernels. My cremation is going to be epic.”  (Just to add a little lightness into the conversation.)

No one wants to think about these morbid plans, but trust me, we all should. Don’t leave your wishes unknown to your family members. My sisters and I talked about it, and we each want to be cremated, but our ashes will be spread at different places, proving that as close as we are and as much as we share, we are still individuals. If you do not have a will, get one soon. If you do not have a living will, get one immediately. Make your end of life wishes known. Be an organ donor. Make your plans. Go out and have fun. Don’t wait, because as we all know, none of us is promised tomorrow.

“Every story has an end. But in life, every end is just a new beginning.”



One thought on ““Do It Again…” Steely Dan, November 1972”

  1. Leslie, thank you for visiting with us on this trip. You and Lu were such cute girls and good friends. You have been a blessing to me through your blogs and I love to keep up with what is going on in your life. It will be 8 years on Oct. 22 since we lost Lu so I hope “Lu’s Smile” sun catchers shine brightly for us all on this day.


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