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One of the most challenging and stressful moments in life shows up when we come face-to-face with a mountainous task that looms over us. What makes for stress? What pounces upon us like a hungry lion in the bush? What overwhelms? Simply put–life circumstances coupled with ill-preparedness. None of us welcomes difficulty. Our palms ring sweat. Our heart palpitates. Our thoughts rush in and crash into each other. Each screaming, “Pick me. Pick me,” but to no avail. Stressed out is all we feel. The unexpected in everyday life creates this tension and forces us to choose our next step. We must move forward. We must do something to confront our current circumstances. What to do and how to do it, and in which order to do it becomes the dilemma. Our minds become clouded with the age-old, “If I woulda coulda shoulda…” phenomena. Let’s face it. Much of our stress stirs from a lack of knowing what to do or a lack of proper preparedness. Thus, the ominous ‘check-off list’ becomes the focus of our conversation this evening.


In my study and experience with helping people prepare last stories or tributes for their loved ones, I’ve noticed that those who have systems in place suffer less stress. One simple checklist is to construct a ‘family tree’ list with each generation’s correct spelling of names and birthdays. Even if you don’t get the opportunity to see those family members, gather as much as you can about new births, marriages, and deaths. Trust me: This small step saves time and heartache. This act of preparedness keeps anyone in the family from becoming offended that any estranged member missed the cut. Now, accusations hurled your way that you left this dear one out intentionally. Who wants this drama? 


Cross your ‘T’s and dot your I’s’ when keeping accurate family history facts. Yet, another stress reliever to reduce your woes comes by creating a ‘favorite things’ list. Begin paying close attention to what your family and close friends favor. Keep a log of favorite colors or songs or hobbies or frequent sayings. You could even include memories that hold a special place in their hearts. Again, I ask you to heed my sage advice. I’ve journeyed with many families who either have to lay a loved one to rest or want to celebrate a loved one’s birthday. If we prepare these small detailed lists, it will eliminate foreboding burdens in days to come.


The truth resounds clearly. When our backs get pressed against a wall or the loss of a treasured one knocks the wind out of us, our thoughts become cloudy, and memory fails us. This is when all those checklists pay off. Someone gets assigned the task of writing the last story or soliciting the services of someone like me, a story-sharer at Your Last Story–Obit Support Service. If you have these checklists, both of our jobs become so much easier to craft an accurate life story. With so many other tasks that we must address during a time of grief, gathering facts for our loved ones’ last story shouldn’t haunt us or stress us. Actually, when ‘family tree’ details are available, families treasure the time spent crafting their loved one’s last story or birthday story. Let’s prepare for the unexpected hiccups that show up in life by safeguarding ourselves with checklists. By crossing our ‘T’s and dotting our I’s,’ we afford ourselves “an ounce of prevention [that’s] worth a pound of cure.” It will pay off after-while. 


Let’s get those checklists ready. Shall we?


Live Long and Prosper


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