“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”
~ L.M. Montgomery, The Story Girl
Perhaps you read my post a few days ago, about my friend Julie who has been given a diagnosis of mere weeks to live due to end-stage inoperable ovarian cancer. No-one knows if she’ll have three months, less, or longer, but we do know that her remaining time is short. Precious, short and non-renewable.
We’ve talked a lot in the past few days. A lot! And in that time on the crazy roller-coaster ride of shock, denial, anger, grief and acceptance some big decisions have been made.
Truth is, Julie really is dying. This is the end game for her. There will be no miracle cure or last-minute reprieve. She understands that, and always the pragmatist, she’s been working out how she wants these weeks to look for her and her family. It is not chasing some possible cure in some remote part of the world, or filling herself with pills, tonics or juice fasts. Julie wants to spend her last weeks with the people she loves, to live life doing things that give her pleasure and that fill her up with love and gratitude, and to die a good death. One that is peaceful and without pain or trauma.
Day One after her diagnosis we began to get some care options in place and attended to all the legal stuff. Her mum, an ex-nurse who will be Julie’s primary carer, has spoken with the oncologist about what to expect, and contacted a local hospice for help and guidance, including the equipment and medications needed for home care. Julie will spend her last days back at the family property outside Brisbane, surrounded by nature, family and friends. There are still good places to go for coffee, and for tasty meals to be had if she feels like an outing. But there is also the comfort of familiar surroundings. Julie was clear – no hospitals.
She’s taken sick leave from work, checked all her insurances and contacted all the appropriate people. She spoke with her husband and then updated her will, and nominated a medical Power of Attorney. We’ve found some good counsellors for the family to help with this time of transition.
We’ve spoken to people about spiritual care for Julie and her family for this final part of her journey here on earth.
All of these things help Julie to have a sense of peace and control at a time when so many things are being stripped away from her.
Day Two we went shopping; for stationery, scrapbooking supplies, a decent photo printer and some journals.
Why? Julie has two little girls, aged three and six. Daughters she adores. Daughters she will never get to see grow up. Another of my friends lost her own mum when she was five, has many unanswered questions because of that loss, and has had many times when she’s wished for advice or support from the mum she never really knew.
Julie wants her loved ones to feel her love, support, guidance and encouragement – even if she cannot be here in person to give it.
So we’ve made a plan:
- Scrapbooks for each girl, to celebrate their time together, and for Julie to leave messages of love and support. Julie’s mum and sister love to scrapbook, and they have promised to help with this task, pouring all of their love into these albums
- Letters from Julie to be given to the girls and her other significant loved ones for important milestones in their lives
- Video messages for some of those same milestones (and believe me we brainstormed many possibilities, including the hard and sad parts of life as well as the usual celebrations) She’s recorded the first few already.
- A journal that documents Julie’s life, from her own childhood to the present day. This is a project just for Julie, to do in her quiet hours and until she can no longer write entries for herself. This is a place where she can glue pictures, talk about who is in the photo, what they were doing, and what that meant for her. A place that records Julie the way Julie knows herself and her interior world – as a person, not just as a mother, or a wife.
Day Three and Julie and her family began a whole weekend together, sleeping in, watching DVDs, baking cupcakes and reading stories. No work, no deadlines, no emails to answer or calls to return, no papers to write. Instead there will be lots of cuddles, snuggles and love. Some time to think about a bucket list. Some time to cocoon from the world for a while.
For now her pain and fatigue are manageable, and she can still live independently and with quality of life. We’ll reassess as things change.
Help is there for Julie and her family as they walk this part of the journey together. So much of it will simply unfold as it needs to. And of course, Julie has her plan of things to leave behind for those she loves. This is so important to her, it’s her last and most important project – and I know it will help with closure for her too.
In the next few weeks Julie also wants to take one last shopping trip, for a few special items for her loved ones.
She wants wine, cheese and chocolate with her best girlfriends – soon, while she still feels like getting dressed up and going out.
She’s got a romantic weekend getaway booked with her husband for next weekend.
She is going to plan her own funeral, with help from her husband, daughters, mum and good friends. She wants to go to that life celebration in person. She says it seems pointless to miss her own, best party.
My friend does not know how many good days she has left, but she wants to make the most of her time on this earth.
That’s a good lesson for all of us, don’t you think?
13 thoughts on “Time With Julie, Crafting Dying Her Way”
Thank you. Dare I suggest that she look at Dr Howard Bruckner in NYC. He has amazing results in calming us down, allowing significantly more time. I respect her choice but I am enough of an expert to know that she can have more time. Maybe.
I love how she is handling this time, all the planning, no work, no email phones etc, just family and friends…cocooning…..what life should be always…..what a totally grounding in the moment present here now experience. And I adore you Nicole too for being there for her and telling us what is happening…and love everyone else’s comments above too.
It’s sure is an eye opener for those of us , as far as we know , are healthy and do not make the most of the ones we love around us …and that includes ourselves .
My heart goes out to Julie and her Family …PLEASE give her a hug from me …a stranger who cares .
What an opportunity Julie has now, to be able to finalise her affairs and spend quality time with her loved ones. So many who pass over don’t get the chance to say “I love you” to the people they leave behind. I wish Julie, her family and her friends all the best in the the coming weeks.
I have just returned from the Palliative Care Ward here in Brisbane at the Mater. My friend is in the same situation as Julie though her time maybe shorter. Weeks perhaps, no more than the month ahead. She has come to accept this position much like Julie. They are adjusting her medications so that she can return to her beautiful home for her last days. We started funeral plans today, much more about the celebration, the sharing of her special items and the wishes for when the time comes. It has been a healing and peaceful time with friends of over 20 years. She is clear on what she wants and is lucid right now before the meds taken over. She has had some dreams also that portend this death. She has tried all the alternatives but now she is on a road of no return. As she said I have one foot in each of the worlds.
My heart breaks for Julie. With the wonderful support Julie and her family have her passing will be extremely sad for everyone but she will go with dignity, love and peace.
Hugs and bless to Julie and everyone that is with her xoxoxox
How absolutely heart wrenching. My heart goes out to Julie and all of her loved ones, for I too know the sorrows of the loss of loved ones. Though my loved ones are not with me in the physical sense, I know they are with me in spirit, they have a way of letting you know they are still around, and I take comfort in knowing we will be together again.
When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure. So, Julie, I hope you can take comfort in knowing that ” your treasures” will enrich the many hearts of those you’ve touched. I will be praying for you to be blessed with time & energy for what matters most to you in this part of your journey.
In fact I wish all the visitors to this blog & you too Nicole, to be blessed with time and energy for what matters most in your journeys also!
Love and Hugs to everyone! <3
A sad story, very moving and a beautiful outlook and life perspective. I hope you’re friend Julie has a peaceful pain free passing. blessings to Julie and her Family. Thank you for sharing.
Here i am crying too after the this another beautiful piece you write Nicole.
And the “men” is so true…
This was another post that made me cry and when Tim asked me why I was crying and I told him, he was like but you don’t know the person so why are you crying………….men………..
Tears are streaming down my face as I write this. I feel so deeply for your friend. I lost my mother over 7 years ago and I was fortunate enough to have 21 years with her. My heart hurts for Julie’s little girls more than anything. I know she has her time planned out and I think that’s wonderful. I just thought I’d add a few things that I wish I could have heard from my mother about. Maybe Julie already plans to do them or maybe I am helping in some way. I don’t know, but I’d like to think my perspective may help in some little way.
One of the biggest things I regret not having my mom around for was while I was pregnant with my daughter. They say a lot of things in pregnancy are hereditary and I had so many questions I wanted to ask her. I wanted to know her cravings, her symptoms, her advice, and her memories. I wish so badly that I could have had some sort of insight to that time in her life. And also any parenting advice she had for me. Even the simplest things, or the smallest memories from when I was a baby would have helped. Something that I could have connected between my parenting experience and hers.
Another thing I still get angry with my mother for is that she didn’t like her picture taken. Because of this, I have very few pictures of her, or even her and me together. Especially none of her smiling… since most of them were taken candidly when she didn’t know, otherwise she wouldn’t have been in them. So please make sure there are many many pictures, especially with smiles and with family.
And finally, whenever I’m sick (yes, even as a 28 year old adult), I miss my mother more than ever. She would baby the heck out of me when I was sick and we had this tradition of watching musicals, coloring, and eating soup, ice cream, crackers, and 7-up. Now obviously not everyone has this tradition, but my advice would be to pick something that is a tradition Julie has with her daughters and try to leave something behind for them that will remind them of it and bring comfort.
I will stop there. My heart is truly aching for your friend and her family. Prayers go out to them.
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