Friday, June 27, 2014

Talking about Death and Asking for Help

In a few hours, my wife and I are meeting with a lawyer to sign the final version of the living will we set up for our kids. A couple weeks ago, we sat down in a comfy law office and hashed out the details of who would take care of our kids, our medical decisions, and our stuff in the case of some kind of tragedy. There's nothing like talking about all of the different possible combinations of deaths in the family, and what will become of your children in each different scenario, to force you to confront your own mortality. Like a lot of our peers, we dragged our feet on this important matter because of the ickyness of discussing our worst fears. As a people, we're kind of superstitious about discussing death. It's a topic that has a power over us, and a stigma, despite its absolute universality.

After the first meeting with the lawyer, I felt a sense of relief for having prepared for almost any existential eventuality. This was partially because my friend Oren Miller was on my mind. I met Oren first through dad blogging, and then in real life. He's smart and funny, an excellent writer, and a dedicated stay-at-home dad to two young kids. He also started up and moderates what has become a huge community of dad bloggers--a facebook group that's nearly 800 strong. It has become my--and many others'--main online forum for celebrating, griping, sharing, brainstorming, crowdsourcing, and dick jokes. Oren is the guy who has to rein in this bunch of opinionated, verbose dudes when the conversations get heated, and he does so gently but definitively. He's a mensch.

Last month, Oren went to the hospital with back pain, and came out with a crushing diagnosis of Stage 4 lung cancer that had spread to other organs. The prognosis is brutal: maybe a year left to spend with his family. He wrote beautifully about his situation here. I won't try to summarize what he had to say--you should read it--except to mention that, in addition to my heart breaking for his family, my head was nodding in agreement that once you have kids, the significance of your own mortality is less about how scary it is personally, and more about how it affects others.

In addition to observing the stigma associated with talking about death, we also tend to be ashamed and reluctant to ask for help. This is probably something we should get over. Oren has been stoic throughout this ordeal, but at the end of his post about his diagnosis, he asks anyone in contact with his family to help him out by treating his survivors in the ways that will encourage them to move toward happiness. This strikes me as one of the wisest and most selfless ways to establish one's legacy.

But without having asked for it, Oren's family has also been receiving financial help thanks in part to his brothers in the dad blogging community. One of our members, Brent Almond, set up a fund through Give Forward, with the modest goal of raising a few thousand dollars to send Oren and his family on a vacation. After receiving some attention in the blogosphere and mainstream media, however, the fund has far exceeded the original goal, and is closing in on $30,000, a sum that could help with medical expenses, and even become the seed money for a college fund for his kids.

So here's me asking for help. Please read Oren's story and keep his family in your thoughts. And if you have a couple bucks to spare, consider donating them to Oren's Give Forward fund. Here's the url again:


1 comment:

  1. It's difficult when that time comes for anyone. Was 13 when my dad passed, and 28 when mom passed from pancreatic cancer. The one thing that I was thankful for was that my parents were open and honest with everything that was going to be coming. We as kids (my sister was 12) were not hidden away from what was going to happen. Granted they had time to prepare for each death. tears were shed but the one thing that rang true was that regardless of them passing we carried with us lessons, memories, and more.

    My son is 13 now. I have been prepared since he was 4 after my mom passed away, and he knows that even though he will never see his grandmother and grandfather for holidays etc that he is still learning from them with the memories I share with him. I've never been the full faith sort basing that they are in a better place. (Don't blast I respect faith). Being prepared is important. As is making sure that they need to know that even though we may not be there they should celebrate the times we were and focus on those.


Don't hold back.


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