Sunday Post 160: Got My Umbrella, I’m Ready for Rain

I recently had the opportunity to sit on a panel for the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. We explored the topic of children who have a parent with cancer. We spoke and answered questions in front of about 1,000 oncologists.
One of our main points was to help them understand their necessary role in helping the entire family cope with cancer. Helping them understand how important it is for them to be honest without taking away hope, preparing parents for all potential outcomes – even death.
I work at the YMCA, and we don’t even like to tell people we canceled a Zumba class. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to tell a family that mom or dad could die.
And yet, what a gift they give when they allow us to prepare.
I wish every family would have the tough conversations before they face a true tragedy. It is much easier to prepare for death when there is no reason to believe you’re going to die.
One of the panelists likened this planning to taking an umbrella with you on a cloudy day. Your hair looks nice, you’re wearing suede shoes – you hope it doesn’t rain.  But if it does, wouldn’t you be glad you took the umbrella?
If everyone would answer a few simple questions before something critical happened, they would be much more ready for the rain.  Or in our case, the monsoon.
1)  Do you have adequate life insurance?  If one spouse died, would the other be financially secure?
2)  What is most important in the culture of your family?   For me, and I hope Lisa, although we never discussed it, our family must have:  honesty/transparency, kindness to self and others, and humor.

If someone else ends up raising my kids, those are the three most important things I want them to live by.  Besides faith, which is understood in our family, that is what I want their foundation to be built on.

3)  Does each spouse understand the role of the other?  Can the father log onto the school website and does he know how to plan a birthday party?  Does the mother have the ability or resources to do the taxes.  Those examples may seem sexist, but I chose them based solely on my family’s experience.

Yeah, oncologists have a responsibility to be open and forthcoming with patients. But not all of us will die from cancer.  We may get hit by a bus. We may outlive our children.

Now that I know it can pour on a bright and sunny day, I ain’t leaving home without my rain gear.

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  1. Frances

     /  March 23, 2014

    You are so very right about carrying the umbrella.! Such important advise for all of us. I would like to add that I would hope each of your readers would consider the gift of organ donation ….the gift of life…Organ, eye and tissue donation can, in the wake of tragedy, bring life and hope to many who otherwise would not have hope for health and life. Besides being sure to include organ donor designation on a drivers license one should be sure that your wishes are know by your family and/or those close to you. Medicine has made tremendous advances in the field of organ and tissue transplantation. Today there are many who are on the transplant list waiting for a much needed lung, liver, kidney or heart etc.. Doctors and nurses will always work tirelessly to save any life that has been the victim of an accident, but should that prove to be impossible, as is sadly the case in some incidences, the “gift of life” through organ donation can save countless lives and can be the ultimate gift and ultimate memorial. Thank you for this opportunity to help spread the word on this subject.

    • Danny Tanner

       /  March 23, 2014

      You are absolutely correct. I have it on my license to harvest what they can!

  2. Faye Humphrey

     /  March 23, 2014

    Well said Bruce. I admire you so much.

    Sent from my iPad


  3. Wayne

     /  March 23, 2014

    If there is one thing I’ve learned from your experience: none of us are immune to life’s disasters. No matter how good we are, how bad we are, how prepared we are, how unprepared we are, how Christian we are, how pagan we are, how smart we are, how dumb we are, the worse can happen to all of us. Be prepared and listen to those who’ve been there and heed their advice. And what you’ve said is good advice -Dad

  4. This is a terrific post. I was in such denial while Adam was sick that I wouldn’t even talk to him about the topics you mention. That’s really unlike me, and completely due to stress and surprise (how can someone be surprised and in denial for 5 months? I don’t know but I was.) This post is sure to help lots of folks.

    • Danny Tanner

       /  March 23, 2014

      I wish everyone would prepare – long before needed!

  5. I really liked this post. I remember when my mom was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. What a whirlwind of a nightmare that was. Her prognosis was 6 months. My mom prepared her own funeral right down to the flowers she wanted, the repass dinner and made sure she had all her insurance up to date. Me on other hand, i was completely lost. ..Thank you for posting this.

  6. Steve Montgomery

     /  March 23, 2014

    Right on with that one. Spot on.


  7. Claire

     /  March 23, 2014

    Speaking as someone, who until she was widowed, had never mowed a lawn, filed a tax return (lived in England – never had to) or fired up a grill, I completely agree. Knowing my husband was terminally ill for close to a year before he passed away did allow us to prepare and feel comfortable with the majority of the financial arrangements. He was also physically well enough during most of this time to help me wrap my head around the idea that I would raise 3 daughters without their father. He made me face the fact I would be solely responsible for their emotional and physical welfare and that I would pick up their pieces while dealing with my own pain. To me, in the end, the greatest gift he gave all 4 of us was letting us know he believed in us. He was a “hands on” husband/dad who fought hard, out of love, to be here for us but when he had no choice but to face the fact he wouldn’t be, he taught us to rely on our faith in God to give us strength to face all that would come our way. Yes, it’s tough but I can’t help but think how much tougher it would have been if we had of been blindsided by his death suddenly. I can only hope that those close to us and have seen what “rain” can do to a family and have been inspired to make the changes, shift the roles even slightly and contemplate how life will go on if the unimaginable happens.

  8. This is a thoughtful post. Being prepared is important…..anything can happen to anyone of the family and if nothing is organized or understood it can be a disaster, and a most stressful time.

  9. Exactly. You’re very generous to share your story.

  10. Darcy

     /  March 24, 2014

    “I wish every family would have the tough conversations before they face a true tragedy. It is much easier to prepare for death when there is no reason to believe you’re going to die.” You are spot on, Bruce. Having these conversations does not then mean you will immediately die (as a healthy family member of mine once thought – but not rationally, of course). It’s one of the most unselfish acts we can do for others.

  11. Well said Bruce!


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