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Since 1883, Modern Woodmen of America has brought people together, supported families and strengthened communities.

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Modern Woodmen of America, Rock Island, IL

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Persevering Through Uncertain Times

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Mom's Last Gift

Preplanning offers control before death and eliminates difficult decisions after.

Jodi’s story, in her words

March 13, 2020. "The cancer is back, and unfortunately it has spread to my stomach and liver. The doctor told me there’s nothing more they can do. They’re only expecting me to live another three to six months."

When I heard these words from my mom, it felt like I’d been punched in the stomach and had the wind knocked out of me. My beautiful mom and dearest friend, who was supposed to live a lot longer, was telling me she likely wouldn’t be here by the end of the year.

Mom and her husband, George, already had a trip to Myrtle Beach planned. The day after her diagnosis, they were off to enjoy walks along the beach and make the best of whatever time was left. But COVID-19 had other ideas. The world was quickly shutting down by the time Mom and George got to Nashville, so they turned around, went back home and started to plan.

Pancreatic cancer and COVID are two things Mom couldn’t control. But she could control her final wishes regarding her finances, visitation and celebration of life service. So that’s what she did.

Legally and financially speaking

Mom’s first call was to her attorney to finalize paperwork. She wanted to make sure her house was in my brother’s and my names to make things easier for us after her death.

She also:

  • Met with her investment rep about transferring her accounts to Steve (my brother) and me.
  • Added Steve to her bank accounts, since he served as her financial executor.
  • Signed a do not resuscitate order, which saved me from potentially having to make that choice as the medical executor.

Mom wanted to do everything and anything to alleviate the burden of difficult decisions for Steve and me. This was her final act of taking care of her kids.

Pancreatic cancer and COVID are two things Mom couldn’t control. But she could control her final wishes.

Planning final goodbyes

After completing the legal paperwork, Mom spoke with two dear friends from church – a funeral director, Jennifer, and our pastor, Cheri.

Jen told me she had a hard time keeping it together while she talked to Mom about her visitation. Mom was the one consoling Jen – telling her that she wanted her final days to be filled with love and laughter, not tears and sadness.

“It was an honor to carry out your mom’s final wishes,” Jen told me. “This was something she could control, and I wanted to make sure it was perfect.”

Cheri said Mom was also adamant about preplanning her celebration of life service.

“I went into our first planning meeting thinking we’d get it done in one session. I soon realized we wouldn’t be meeting just once,” Cheri remembers. “She lived so very faithfully and wanted to die very faithfully too.”

Mom told Cheri that she didn’t want to saddle her children with the burden of making so many decisions at such a hard time. Plus, discussing songs and Scriptures helped her process her final days.

“She had lots of favorite songs and Scriptures, but it was in the discussing them that we processed her inevitable death,” Cheri says. “I left each conversation inspired by her rock-solid faith, love, wisdom and commitment to her family, church and friends.”

Mom even chose which song to include in the video tribute I created for her. Yes, it was difficult to ask her about music for a video we’d be playing when she was no longer with us. But I’m so grateful I did because I had a different song in mind. There are hundreds of songs I could have used, but Mom knew exactly which song she wanted. And, again, that took the burden of this decision off my shoulders.

Planning vs. not planning

Sadly, I’ve experienced meeting with the funeral home to plan visitations for both my mom and dad.

Dad died four years before Mom, but there was no time for planning then. Dad’s massive heart attack left my mom, brother and me with many decisions to make while still reeling from the shock of his sudden death. We did our best and made decisions we thought Dad would have agreed with.

The best way we could honor her beautiful life was to carry out her final wishes.

After Mom died in September 2020, it was a much different situation when we met with Jen at the funeral home. My brother and I didn’t have the stress of trying to make difficult decisions during an incredibly sad time. We could just mourn our mom and know that the visitation and celebration of life service were exactly the way she wanted them.

The best way we could honor her beautiful life was to carry out her final wishes.

Final Wishes Resources

Late-in-life and end-of-life planning is important. You may be reluctant to discuss the topic with your loved ones. But, as Jodi discovered after her mom’s death, doing so can lift a great burden for your loved ones. It can also give you a sense of control now.

Modern Woodmen’s Final Wishes Resources program offers help for both sides of the conversation. You can choose from two handy (and free!) resources, available exclusively to Modern Woodmen members.

  • My Life, My Plan workbook: This easy-to-follow guide breaks late-in-life/end-of-life planning down into manageable, bite-size chunks. Work through defined steps to help get your house in order, organize your affairs and record your wishes for your loved ones.
  • My Life, My Plan – A Helper’s Guide: This resource provides advice for those who want to help a parent, spouse, relative or friend prepare his/her final wishes. The guide offers tips for holding end-of-life planning conversations and helps prepare you for the eventual loss of a loved one.

Contact your Modern Woodmen representative to request one or both booklets (available in print or fillable PDF formats).

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Whole life insurance

Whole life insurance

Whole life insurance helps protect your loved ones, providing tax-free money when you die, not just if you die during a specified time period. You can get peace of mind, knowing that your family is protected, and you can take advantage of cash value and other living benefits to help you plan ahead – no matter what life brings.

Final Wishes Resources
Fraternal program

Final Wishes Resources

Get your “house” in order and share your late-in-life/end-of-life wishes … or help a loved one with this important task. These guides help members plan, organize and start conversations.