Re: Joani Blank [was: Two announcements about longtime cohouser ...
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 22 Jul 2016 14:31:08 -0700 (PDT)
I’m sorry to hear that you may not be so comfortable in your final months. I 
appreciate very much that you let us know. It’s very hard to lose a vital 
person suddenly with no notice. One of the nicest things one of our residents 
did when she was diagnosed with terminal metastasized cancer was to send all of 
us an email explaining her condition and how she wanted to be approached about 
it. Her family was prone to cancer so she was well aware of what she would need.

She told us about all the services she  had arranged — cleaning, transportation 
of palliative treatment, meals, safety monitoring, etc. And what we could do 
for her. We have a practice of having one community member to communicate needs 
and convey information so she set that up as well. It was better for all of us 
to be informed and to know how to say goodbye.

I have wondered whether another story would be appreciated or not. I've wanted 
to share it since I received your email, Joani, and that feeling hasn’t gone 
away so I’m sending it.

My grandmother had had severals strokes and had been unable to walk or talk for 
a few years. She had been a very active talker all her life and I have a lot of 
memories of waking up with her midstream in a long story about what we needed 
to do that day and who had said what when on the phone already that day. With 
her lifelong skill of non-stop talking, she figured out how to communicate very 
well, at least with my Uncle. 

She spent her last months planning her funeral with him, making him swear on 
the bible to carry out her instructions precisely. She made a list that she 
revised regularly of people who would not be allowed to speak at her memorial 
service. My Uncle was given many of the reasons: In 1939 this person did this. 
In 1942 this person ran away with someone’s husband. In 1920, this person never 
congratulated her on her marriage. The reasons went on and on. She remembered 
every slight. She was died in 1983 at the age of 83.

She had a list of people who would be invited to speak, and one who would be 
allowed to sing. The regular organist would be allowed to play the organ 
because she was a “poor soul” and always had been. She needed something to do 
even if she wasn’t very good.

People who attended the service would be told to also go to the burial. If they 
could sit and listen in a clean quiet place, they could pretty well get to the 
cemetery even if it was raining. The final demand was that the dinner following 
the burial service would be held in my Uncle's home, not the church basement. 
Since funerals were announced in the church bulletin and the newspaper, people 
who didn’t even know the person being buried had begun attending the dinners.

She said, “If you don’t know them, don’t let them in. I won’t have any 
freeloaders at my funeral.”

I hope that makes you laugh and gives you some ideas for controlling the next 
few months.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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