Why was Life’s Last Wishes created?

Life’s Last Wishes was created because when my father died – I wished this had been in the world.  My father was diagnosed with cancer and given 2 years to live. He was in his early 60’s. I was trying to come around to accepting the diagnosis, as was he, when, 8 days after being told he had cancer, he died. He died still wanting to live, asking where the 2 years went, where his time went.

It was hard. To lose my father like that, it was devastating.

You know what made that time even harder? Having to make decisions for him about his wishes for after his death, without knowing what his wishes were. Having to decide whether to bury or cremate – what would he have wanted? Church service? Flowers? What songs would he have liked to have been played?

Sitting on the computer at midnight the night before the funeral, four siblings who had just lost their father, trying to decide and agree on music for the service. What would he want, what were his last wishes?

It went further than that. Where was his will? We know he had one, but it’s a few years on now, and we still haven’t found it.

Bank accounts – who did he bank with? Social media accounts – what did he want done with these? Didn’t he once say he wanted to leave that piece of jewellery to my brother – I can’t recall. We can’t agree.

You get the point. In our grief, the last thing we need is to be put in a position where we are making decisions for our lost loved ones without having a full understanding of what they would have wanted.

We don’t want to get that wrong. We also don’t want to burden our loved ones with that stress on top of their grief.

So it was after my father passed and after the ordeal of having to make decisions about his last wishes without knowing what they were, that I vowed I would never put my loved ones through that same situation. I would record what my last wishes were and leave that for them, so that when the time came, in their grief they wouldn’t have to play a guessing game around what my last wishes might have been. This is how Life’s Last Wishes was born, and it was born to help us make sure our wishes are known when we die, and to relieve our loved ones of the burden of having to decide for us. Life’s Last Wishes is the single greatest gift you can give you loved ones.

How can you leave a legacy? Here’s some pointers to start you off:

*Develop your personal vision statement
*Define your core values
*Be a mentor to others
*Provide a family tree or history
*Leave a will
*Let your life be your message
*Give the greatest gift you can give – Life’s Last Wishes
*Write your memoir
*Write a book
*Start a blog
*Pass down heirlooms or handmade items
*Add to your personal vision with a personal mission statement
*Support the people and causes that are important to you.

I hope Life’s Last Wishes can help you to both leave a legacy and leave the greatest gift possible.

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi

www.lifeslastwishes.com

What is Life’s Last Wishes and Who’s it for?

What is Life’s Last Wishes?

Well it’s a passion project really.  But it’s much more than that.

Life’s Last Wishes solves a problem. As adults we’re responsible for our lives. What happens when we die though? We tend not to take responsibility for what happens to us after we die. Life’s Last Wishes is the gift to help us do just that. To relieve our loved ones of the burden of making choices for us during their own grieving. You can make it easier for those you leave behind with Life’s Last Wishes.

That in itself is a worthy outcome, however Life’s Last Wishes also offers you the opportunity to share your life’s lessons, your values, thoughts, hopes and dreams with your loved ones. It’s your legacy. It’s about how you’d like to be remembered. Life’s Last Wishes is there for you and your loved ones.

Lifes Last Wishes
Life’s Last Wishes – for you, for me

Who is Life’s Last Wishes for?

Where you are on your life’s journey is irrelevant – Life’s Last Wishes is for everyone.

It’s for you. There is no time like the present to take steps to record your wishes. Life’s Last Wishes is a chance for some self-reflection and a way to share your thoughts, values, passions, dreams and lessons with your loved ones and future generations. This is your legacy.

It’s for your parents, children and loved ones.

My Dad’s sudden passing had me wishing I’d had a Life’s Last Wishes in my life, and that I had sat with my Dad to complete his last wishes. Not only would it have saved my siblings and I much despair in our grief, it would have given my Dad and I a wonderful opportunity to have these conversations, to talk about his life, and what his wishes were. You can purchase Life’s Last Wishes for your parents or loved ones and go through the process with them, or gift it to them to complete themselves in their own time. Either way, it’s about making sure our wishes are known and leaving less decision making and far less stress to those left behind in their grief.

There is no time like the present – you never know when it’s going to be too late.

“Let your life be your message”  Mahatma Ghandi

www.lifeslastwishes.com

Life's Last Wishes

What to do when there is no RIGHT decision – my thoughts while in self isolation COVID-19

As I write this I find myself in self-isolation, working from home, awaiting the test results for COVID-19 of a person who had close contact with a person I had close contact with.  Back up one person, and they tested positive to COVID-19.

It’s been a long week – considering it’s only Wednesday.

I was faced on Monday morning, before I had consumed my second coffee, with having to make various decisions around cancelling a large event that night and closing down a number of services that our workplace provides to the community.

I am not decision phobic – I make dozens of them every day.  Some important and some less important.

But this week has been really challenging. I was forced to make decisions quickly on things where I had only the information in front of me. I made the decisions as best I could – lamenting the fact that, in my mind, there was NO RIGHT decision.  My gut churning as I gave the directions to cancel events and reduce services.

I was nagged by the sense that no decision I could make would be the ‘right’ decision.  I talked this through with a close friend. He said to me “So if there is no right decision, what is there? What is left if there is no right decision?”.

I had nothing. My brain was fried, I was in flight or fight. I didn’t want to make these decisions and I didn’t want to continue making them this week – knowing there were more to come.

Now these decisions aren’t simple. My decision to close a service to our community is not done lightly. I will get as many accolades for each decision as I will rotten tomatoes and vitriol.  That’s par for the course – what I was struggling with was the impact these decisions have on those already impacted by this pandemic in our community.  I close a library, I don’t just close a library – I take away social connection, the ability for our community to borrow books and resources, I take away a safe meeting place.  In making such a decision, I also protect my staff, my volunteers, and ultimately, maybe, I protect the community.

Rock.  Hard Place.  You’ll find me in middle.

That night I was tossing and turning – and then it came to me.

If there are no right decisions – then there also cannot be any wrong decisions.

There can only be the best decisions I can make in the moment – based on what I know at the time.  And personally, based on my values and my love for my people and my community.

And that is how it is.  The best decision.  Not right.  Not wrong.

I’m self isolating (along with 5 of our staff) because that is the best decision we could make at the time. I have intense feelings of letting my teams down. And that’s ok – I can feel those feelings and still know that it is the best decision we could make at the time.

I’m well, I’m pretty fit and I’m not compromised from a health perspective. There are people in our community who are not so fortunate. I’m not staying home because I’m afraid I have COVID-19. I’m staying home because I love the people around me and I want to protect those people who are most at risk.

So as we all navigate these times, let’s know that there are likely no right decisions.  There are likely no wrong decisions.

Please don’t let that stop you from making a decision, the best decision you can make right now with the information you have.

The other insight that has really hit me this afternoon – is this.

It’s not about me. 

It’s about what is right for me to do right now, this minute to take responsibility for my place in this world and my actions.

Here’s to working from home until I know I am not posing a risk to those most vulnerable in my workplace and my community.

I’ve stocked up on the essentials like gin, tonic and corn chips.  If anyone has a spare roll of toilet paper you can leave it on my front porch.

 

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi

 

 

I’m off to see my psychologist – and other things I say as I leave the office…

We need to step up – we can all help to reduce the stigma around mental health. The question to ask yourself is – in what way can I uniquely contribute to this issue?

There’s been a lot of progress around reducing the stigma associated with mental health – but did you know there’s still some people who shirk at the mention of a visit to the psychologist?

You might be one of them.

I was one of them.  I always thought you only saw a ‘shrink’ if you didn’t have your shit together. In fact I wrote about my first time a few years ago – you can read that here.  To say I was nervous is a massive understatement.

On an otherwise ordinary Monday morning  I read an article on Linkedin which was titled “Australia needs more mentally ill managers”.  Interesting title so I took some time to read it.

The article quotes David Westgate. 

“Mental health, especially within the workplace, will continue to thrive until senior executives stop pretending they are impervious to such problems. Nothing is going to change until they show that they are mere mortals like the rest of us”.

It goes on to suggest that corporations spending time, money and energy on courses like Mental Health First Aid and the like are futile exercises if those above them fail to raise their hands too.

The author of the article,  Jerome Doraisamy, goes as far as to say that if we, those of us in senior executive positions, won’t fess up, why on earth should Sally from accounts?

“Senior managers with the courage to admit they have battled demons, or still do, will win the undying gratitude and respect of those they lead.  Those who play out their careers in denial, will simply reinforce the stigma that mental illness is for the weak and something to be ashamed of. That success and mental illness are mutually exclusive.  And that’s rubbish.”

Whoa – that’s a lot to deal with on a Monday morning.

Later that morning

Later that morning our Employee Wellbeing team member sent an all staff email out advising that our organisation’s Employee Assistance Program providers (a psychology/counselling service) would be coming to our town and employees (and/or their loved ones) could come and have a confidential face to face session.  This is of course in addition to this service being available all year round through a phone call.

I almost deleted the email after I read it.  But I didn’t.  I took a deep breath, recalled the article I’d read earlier that morning, and pondered some recent incidents in our workforce and in our small community.  A team member dying from suicide, a tragic car accident taking the lives of three vibrant young people, years of drought, devastating bush fires, severe water restrictions….the list went on.

I also remembered we were having four funerals this week alone – three from one accident.  

My heart ached for our team members who were some of the first on the scene to the most recent tragedy.  Not their first, won’t be their last.  These are men and women who signed up to work in roles that did not contemplate their having to attend the site of accidents and other tragedies.

It made me angry – at first.  Seeing the effect this particular event had on some of our team – extending beyond just those who were on site.  We needed to keep them away from this – this isn’t what they’re meant to be doing.

That’s what I was thinking – at least until I shut my mouth and opened my ears and my heart.  When I did this – I heard a different story to the one I was telling myself.

You see, these men and women, fully aware that they didn’t sign up for this type of work, wouldn’t have it any other way.  Of course, they’d all love there to be no need for their attendance at such incidents, but there is – and when I opened my ears and listened I understood.

They don’t want to be there, they don’t want to see what they see, and they don”t want to feel what they feel – and they don’t want anyone else to have to do this either.  They also see themselves as a part of this community – and this thing they do – this dreadful part of what they do – they consider as a service to our community in times that are unbelievably difficult and challenging.

Wow – paradigm shift.  I’m a little embarrassed that I didn’t see this before – I was in protective mode.  I needed it gently explained to me.    I am so glad someone took the time to do so for me.

So had I continued with the story I had crafted,  I would have pushed to have our staff not be involved at all – until I listened and understood.  Now my focus is on continuing to support these men and women in our teams before, during and after they attend these incidents.  To work as best we can to reduce their exposure.  To be there – for them – whatever they need.  To recognise both what they do and more importantly, why they do it.

 

Mental Health Awareness
Let’s raise our hand

Back to the email – am I willing to raise my hand?  

So instead of deleting the all staff email about our counsellors coming to town – I clicked on “forward” and sent another all staff email – not something I do lightly with over 140 staff – but this time it was coming from me, in a senior executive position. I was raising my hand.  

In the email I spoke of our recent tragedies, our awareness of the affect this has had on our teams and our community.  I spoke of my regular psychologist visits – this part I deleted and retyped a few times before deciding to leave it in there – to raise my hand so to speak.  I urged our team members to consider making an appointment and I offered to speak to anyone about the service we offer at any time.

Then I clicked on “send”.

Now maybe you think this was a good thing to do, and maybe you don’t.

All I  know, deep in my heart, is that I couldn’t hit the delete button, I couldn’t walk away from this.  I couldn’t not sent this email when our community and our workforce were dealing with so much.

If one person, just one, can read that email, say to themselves “wow Michelle sees a psych? She looks like she has it all together” (a comment I receive quite often) or can read on, open the brochure or maybe store the phone number away for later use, then I’ve made a small dent.  If one person books in for a session, if one team mate mentions it to another, if one person stops me in the tea room for a chat – then I’ve made a dent.

I’m not out to change the world , I’m still learning my place in it.  I am out to dent the world where I can.  If that means raising my hand and sending these emails, if that means sharing parts of my journey, the darker parts,  in support of others I care about, then I’m going to do that.  

What are you going to do?  What can you do to support the breaking down of the stigma that remains around mental health?  You’re contribution will likely be different to mine – but it will be a contribution all the same.

“Let your life be your Message” Mahatma Gandhi

Written by Michelle McFadyen

Michelle is the founder of Life Support Australia. She is a writer, an adventurer and a traveller, a corporate leader, a student and a teacher. A Strengths Profiler, Conflict and Strengths Coach, qualified Counsellor and Positive Psychology Practitioner, Michelle’s focus during her extensive career in senior executive positions in the corporate and public sector has always been on people.

Michelle loves to hike and travel and makes this a priority in her life. Her experiences include annually guiding groups across the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, summiting Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa and Mt Kinabalu in Borneo and trekking to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. A solo 920km pilgrimage across Spain has kept those fires alive, along with a recent hike across the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage route in Japan.

Learn more about Michelle on the Life Support Australia About page