The Elephant in the Room


Right now, there is probably an elephant in your room, lurking. It’ll be either deeply hidden behind the furniture, or able to be seen but stuck in the corner of the room, or in some cases, it might be right in the middle of the room, and people pass around it.

I call this elephant End of Life Ellie.

Otherwise known as ‘death’, she represents the one fact that we as humans generally prefer to ignore – that we are all going to pop our clogs one day.

In fact, we so dislike the subject that we have over 100 euphemisms for the ‘d-word’ … kicking the bucket, shuffling off the mortal coil, pushing up the daisies being just a few.

The word death seems to have got bad press.

And yet lately there has been much more emphasis in the press about it.


Well, as it slowly dawns on the baby boom generation that death is actually going to happen to them too, there’s a bit of moving and shaking going on in this arena.

My own story is typical. I was 54, married (no kids) to Philip, him older than me by 11 years. Out of the blue he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and a year later he had died. Now, that was NOT in our lifelong plan. We had imagined getting old together, companionably sitting in our rocking chairs, reading our books and pottering about.

But that plan got interrupted, as it does for many.

The result of his death was me publishing my own memoir Gifted By Grief, which sparked off a whole new life for me. You can see me here talking about it in my TedX talk ‘How to Do A Good Death’.

Now, I work with people to get their end of life plans created. Part of a really good end of life plan is what I call your Living Legacy. And that’s where From You To Me comes in.

Something that is Personal

Philip had not done anything like this. He had written professional books, and I knew, of course, a lot about his life. But there was nothing personal from him for me and later on I so wished this had been done.

From You To Me’s Journals of a Lifetime are wonderful gifts to capture stories and memories from the family and friends you love. The journals invite people to record things about their life that will help to bring you both closer and will certainly be a powerful keepsake for you at any time of your life. However, these become even more appreciated after you’ve gone.

If only I had had one of those after Philip had gone! I can’t tell you the number of times I have wished for a personal message from him to me – it would have brought me so much comfort and solace.

We Did a Simple Plan

As it is, I was encouraged to ask him a lot of practical questions in what turned out to be his last year. Things like ‘what kind of coffin do you want?’, ‘what do you want your body dressed in?’, and ‘what are your passwords?’ Not easy questions to ask at the best of times, but definitely not easy when you know someone’s death is probably just months away.

However, the answers to those questions really helped me. They were all written down (which was a good thing, as I had remembered some of them incorrectly) and all I had to do was turn to that document we had created at the right time.

And that’s what an end of life plan is all about – it’s much more than just a will and a funeral plan (and by the way, did you know you don’t have to have a funeral?) and even your living legacy. It covers all kinds of practical information that is of indescribable use to others after you have gone.

But … it does require you to talk about it all beforehand with your family.

Talking about the Elephant the room

So we are back to the where we started, how to do that. How to admit there IS an elephant in the room, let alone talk about it?

One easy way of starting to collate part of someone’s legacy is with a gift of a From You to Me journal. There is one for every member of your family or friend. The completed journals will help to bring you closer to the person you give it to and although we all hope that everyone we know is nowhere near popping their clogs, the story of their life and their experiences with you is a powerful keepsake.

I’m very happy to be recommending these journals from this company as they really support what we are doing here at Before I Go Solutions. Do check them out, they are a beautifully unique gift at Christmas especially, and of course, are part of your family’s living legacy – which in turn is part of each person’s end of life plan!

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