"How Do I Get Ready to Die?"                                                                     
Mysteries. Oh, yes, there’s just something about a good mystery. In fact, most people relish a good mystery as they strive to resolve the riddle, crack the crime case, or achieve the answers. Once solved, the item is no longer a mystery and people’s attention turns in search of a new mystery. Some mysteries, however, remain unsolved.  As such, they continue to confuse and even frustrate the people trying to find the solutions.
Two such mysteries remain unsolved by the human race: the mystery of life and the mystery of death.  While science and technology have identified and clarified many aspects of both life and death, the basic questions remain. “How does life really begin?” “How does death really end?” Throughout the centuries of recorded history mankind has sought the secrets of “beginnings” and “endings,” yet in spite of research and discovery the core secrets remain a mystery to the mortal mind.
The mystery of death both hails and haunts the human heart.  At times it beckons us to draw near to explore its secrets; at other times it besieges us with fear so that we distance ourselves and deny our own mortality.
This unsolved mystery is much more than a mere intellectual inquiry. The subject touches the human life on a daily basis.  It touches my life in both personal and professional settings. My life is touched when family members and close friends die. My life is touched when clients enter therapy with heavy questions like, “How do I get ready to die?” The circumstances may vary, but the basic inquiry remains the same:  “How do we manage the mystery of death?”
On March 08, 1887 Henry Ward Beecher approached his appointment with death. By age seventy-four his work as a minister and a social reformer certainly had influenced and impacted his readiness for death. Allegedly, however, his final words were these:  “Now comes the mystery.”

Perhaps we can connect with Beecher’s statement. Perhaps for us death remains a mystery.  Death, the unknown—an event we’ve never experienced. Death, the unseen—a door through which we’ve never passed. Death, the unsolved—a mystery we’ve never mastered.



                            (Part  Four of Four: Completing the Journey!) 

A period of time has passed since Grant and Grace, our geese couple, began their travels on the Parenting Highway. I clearly recall my first view of Grace sitting on her nest of seven eggs, while Grant kept a keen vigil nearby to make certain that I kept my distance. I remember the seven goslings as they walked (or wobbled) around their “lake home” in search of food and exercise. Just the sight of them brought smiles to my face.
Equipped and encouraged by their parents, the seven “kids” grew toward maturity and reached a point in time when they were promoted or launched into geese adulthood. I’ve often wondered what actually occurred in that launch process, and I’ve pondered the current whereabouts of the seven “kids.” Without a doubt I’ll look up during the next few weeks to watch groups of geese flying in their V-formation and wonder, “Could that group include the Grant-and-Grace family?” One thing’s for sure:  Grant and Grace have completed their parenting journey. Hopefully, the promotion into adulthood was a safe and successful launch for all seven goslings.
In our effort to become a “PRO-Parent,” that is, the best parent we can be, we must take seriously a fourth role of parenthood:  “the promoter parent.”  Producing children begins the journey, protecting children safeguards the journey, providing for children equips the journey, and promoting children completes the journey. In a large sense the parents promote the child’s development on a daily basis from birth to adulthood.  More specifically, the time comes when the parents are responsible for “promoting” the child into adulthood. Initially, the child’s birth into the world resulted from a “final push” by the mother; ultimately, the child’s launch into adulthood results from a “final push” by the parents. The parenting journey completed, the young adult embarks on his own travels along his Highway of Life. Hopefully, he experiences a safe launch and is adequately prepared for the adventures and opportunities to be encountered in the journey ahead.



                                      (Part  3 of 4: Surviving the Journey!)

There they were—all nine of them—Grant and Grace and their seven goslings. My plan to make a quick exit from my office to get ahead of the evening traffic was altered when I saw my favorite geese family out for a late afternoon stroll. After putting my office gear into my car and grabbing my camera, I followed them as they meandered around the grassy perimeter in a search for sun and sustenance. At first I could locate only five goslings and became worried that two of the “kids” had been lost to some unwelcomed fate. But then the other two waddled out of a shadowy hiding place into the revealing sunlight. Keeping a respectful distance I watched for some time with keen interest as the parents instructed their children in the development of “let’s find dinner” skills.
My observations were accompanied by various ponderings about geese parenting and possible similarities and applications to human parenting. Essentially, Grant and Grace were teaching their goslings how to stay alive in an environment that is not always conducive to comfort or even cooperative for survival. They were providing basic survival skills deemed necessary for the journey toward adulthood. Likewise, human parents own the awesome responsibility of providing for their children so that their offspring can both survive today and can also reach adulthood safely and successfully. Our parenting travels are usually filled with a mixture of joy and stress as we equip our children to survive the journey.
While professional parenting is probably an unrealistic goal, most Dads and Moms aspire to be as “pro” (that is, professional) as they can become. So, even though we make our share of mistakes we continue to learn and to grow in our efforts toward becoming a “PRO-parent.” We’ve already explored two important “PRO-parent” roles, the Producer and the Protector roles. Now we’re ready for the third role which is “Provider.” Producing children begins the parenting journey, protecting children safeguards the parenting journey, and providing for children equips them for surviving the journey.
The provider role is not easily defined or described. Contemporary parents vary widely in their beliefs about the “what” and the “how much” components of the provider role. Both components merit much thought and attention.


              (Part 2 of Four:
                      Safeguarding the Journey-#2)

The Parenthood Journey may have started peacefully enough, but our travels along the Parenting Highway soon encounter challenges and conflict. Many of these difficulties develop as we try to fulfill our protector role as parents. Grant and Grace, our geese couple, no doubt discovered quickly that the challenge of protecting seven goslings was at times an overwhelming task! Our goal is to safeguard the child’s journey from his entry into our family until his entry into adulthood. Throughout the journey situations often arise that can accidentally or purposefully threaten the health and safety of the children we are trying to protect. These threats represent battles we must fight effectively in order to achieve a safe arrival at the ultimate “launch site.” The Parenting Highway becomes a type of “battlefield” upon which many “protection battles” are fought by loving, courageous Dads and Moms. Since the safety of our children is at stake, we definitely want to win the War of Protection.
In the previous article I presented a four-step approach to building an effective protection program. For that program to be workable it must be well-balanced so that unhealthy extremes can be avoided. First, let’s explore the development of a balanced program, and, secondly, let’s consider how we can implement that program with loving leadership and consistent courage, particularly in regard to resistant kids and abusive spouses.


       (Part Two of Four: 
                 Safeguarding the Journey-#1)

In the previous article I introduced you to Grant and Grace, the geese couple who practiced parenthood on the small lake behind my office building. The seven goslings they produced were certainly fun to watch as they wobbled around on land, played in the water, and hunted for sources of food. The adage “silly as a goose” seemed inappropriate for this particular pair of parents, for they appeared to be doing a fantastic job rearing their children and equipping them for their ultimate launch into full goose adulthood. I’ve often wondered what happened to those seven “kids” after they graduated from their childhood on the lake. Hopefully, they have all survived and are currently on their own parenting journeys with new families.
Grant and Grace believed strongly in the importance of protecting their offspring. They remained on constant vigilance, always alert to anything that posed a threat to their family. I recall the loud hissing, flapping of wings, and threatening gestures I received from them that first time I unwittingly crossed their safety barrier. I quickly learned to keep a respectful distance as I monitored their progress. My observations prompted a wide variety of thoughts and ponderings about how we as human beings approach and practice parenthood in regard to our role in “protecting our children.” 

Grant and Grace                        (Part One of Four: 
                                     Starting the Journey)

Parenting is hard work, no doubt about it—even for geese. Recently I witnessed the parenting work of one pair of geese. I became aware of the project when I noticed a nest of eggs produced by the female goose. Their nest was built beneath a tree located near the small lake behind the office building where I work as a therapist. One of the goose pair was standing guard over the eggs and hissed loudly as I approached.  Not being one to invite an all-out goose attack and out of respect I stopped and watched from a safe distance. I became interested in their efforts and checked on them frequently. In due time the eggs hatched and seven goslings were welcomed into the goose family. I enjoyed watching the parents as they protected the babies, as they provided the basic necessities, and as they moved toward promoting the goslings into full goose adulthood. 
While observing the activities of Grant and Grace (my names for the pair), I thought of numerous parallels to our human efforts at parenting our children. The adage “silly as a goose” came to mind several times, but Grant and Grace didn’t seem to be silly at all in their commitment and faithfulness. Our fine-feathered friends—those “silly” geese—present some interesting examples for us to consider. Indeed, there is a great deal we can gain from geese.
As a Marriage and Family Therapist I’ve seen thousands of parents struggle with the daunting challenge of rearing a child and then launching that child successfully into adulthood. I’ve personally traveled the Parenting Highway myself, and I’ve witnessed two “graduations” into adulthood. The ultimate launch usually brings to the parents a mixture of rejoicing, relief, and regret. We rejoice to see our children enter the world of adulthood; we’re relieved that the journey has been concluded; we’re regretful about the mistakes we’ve made. Most of us question how the years passed so quickly, and we feel amazed that somehow we all survived the trip. Yet, in spite of the mixed feelings, manifold questions, and major amazement, most of us would choose to take the same journey again.

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