One of my chemo warriors died Saturday. She was one of my tribe of supportive sisters.

Andrea lived big. She touched many. She gave me my first teaching job and taught my daughter to sing and love music. She asked my son, before he went to fight in Iraq, “Are you prepared to die?”

I wrote her letters when she stopped having visitors during her year of living with the demanding new member of the family who vehemently moved in, cancer. When she stopped treatments, I sent her a letter telling her why I admired her, thanking her for changing my life and making my children’s lives richer. Ending the letter, I told her I would always love and remember her. If I sat with her I might have found the courage to ask, “Are you prepared to die?”

She was the one with the guts. In her honor I will try to be braver, gutsier. But I am sure Andrea prepared, in her own way, the things that were important to her, because she was one to plan about keeping and continuing things even beyond her reach after death. How do you prepare to die?

When it is my time to prepare for dying, I will want to make peace all around me. I will hug my family and friends. Of course, my papers and passwords and the secret places and workings of my financials must be made accessible to my dearest. My pets and most precious possessions must be given away with love and care. And then, if I have enough strength I will clean my house. A clean house is one of my hang-ups; I never leave town with the house in disorder. Most importantly, I will clear the corners of my mind and the paths to those I have known, saying, “I’m sorry” and “Thank you” and I love you” widely. For my friends I will wish gentle closings of the gaps I leave. Then, I will live every day and every moment I have left like it is a gift. I will love my life. And finally, I will make friends with death and call it by its first name, Freedom.

Hmmmm. Make peace. Hug. Share money. Take care of pets and prized possessions. Clean up. Clear my mind and make amends. Be generous. Love my time and my life. Reframe death.

My list for preparing to die sounds a lot like what I am trying to do now as I move forward to prepare for the next chapter of my living.

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