Positivity and Preplanning
Sadness opened the door to prearranging, but Dori’s attitude turned it into a celebration.
Doris Denhem has been through some tough times lately, but it’s only inspired her to live her life with more energy and optimism. In a span of three months she learned that her longtime friend had terminal lung cancer and then watched her ex-husband die of the same disease. Dealing with those events back-to-back would be unbearable for many people, but Dori’s positive attitude has allowed her to persevere and thrive through it all.
After meeting this mother of three and grandmother of eight it’s not hard to see what sets her apart. She is a woman who, at age 65, spontaneously decided to ride a roller coaster for the first time while on vacation in Las Vegas. Despite her fear of heights, she climbed aboard the New York-New York Casino’s rooftop coaster, which sits 205 feet above the Las Vegas Strip.
“It was the first time I was ever quiet,” she quipped. “But at least I can say I did it.”
The roller coaster ride was part of her granddaughter’s 21st birthday celebration – an event that wouldn’t appeal to most grandparents, particularly in Las Vegas. Dori, however, said it sounded like too much fun to pass up. In fact, she has a framed photo of the two of them from the trip, which was just a few weeks after her own birthday.
“It was a red letter day for both of us,” she said with a laugh. “I said, ‘This is so cool – I want a picture of us and I’m going to frame it.’ And we did – she’s got a drink in her hand and I’ve got my Medicare card in mine!”
Sadly, Dori’s positivity was tested severely when both her ex-husband, Bill, and her friend, Terry, were diagnosed with terminal cancer within months of each other. Bill, who was the father of her three children, passed away within six months.
“It’s not a real happy story, but it’s also taught me a lot,” she said. “You better enjoy the day because you never know if it’s going to be your last day. The people that you care about – let them know because you just don’t know what can happen.”
After Terry’s prognosis, he began to organize his funeral arrangements with Dori’s help. It was her first real exposure to preplanning and though emotionally trying, it opened her eyes to the value of the process.
“I’ve always felt that attitude is what gets you through life. I walked into the funeral home with a positive attitude and when I walked out I was excited because I’d had so much fun doing it.”
When Bill died she saw a clear example of what could happen when a person passes away without prior funeral arrangements. Dori said she was struck by what her children had to go through as they struggled to coordinate all the details of the memorial and then find a way to pay for it all.
“They’ve got their own lives and expenses,” she said. “They sure as heck don’t need any more. Parents are supposed to be responsible for their children, not be a burden on them.”
Dori said she was inspired to take action to make sure her kids wouldn’t have to go through a similar experience with her funeral. Preplanning became a necessity.
“You see people passing and getting sick, and you think about it, but you don’t do anything,” she said. “You think, ‘Oh, I’ve got to pay my taxes next January, I’ll deal with it then.’ It’s not a priority in your life. Then when you see something like this take place, it comes to the front of your mind.”
Although she admitted that she was initially nervous, Dori said she knew prearranging was too important to wait any longer.
“I called up City View Cemetery in my neighborhood, made an appointment, took a deep breath, and went over there,” she said with a laugh.
She knew that she wanted to be cremated, but said she hadn’t thought of any other details. The local preplanning counselor talked her through each step and discussed her options for every aspect of a funeral service. Dori said she quickly forgot all about her anxiety and actually had fun with the process.
She ordered the urn she liked most, selected the perfect niche location where the urn would be stored behind glass, and decided on a familiar-looking casket for the viewing.
“There was one that was painted blue – it looked like a cardboard box that I wouldn’t put my worst pair of shoes in – there was a really fancy, expensive one, and then there was this middle one with an average price,” she said. “I looked at it and I said, ‘That’s the color of my kitchen cabinets – that’ll work!’”
When she got home, she said she couldn’t wait to tell her kids about her new investment and, of course, have a little fun with them.
“I said, ‘You’ll never guess what I did – I bought a new piece of property,’” she said with a smile. “I told them, ‘It’s really cool, I’ve got a glass door on it, I can see out, I got it at a good price because interest rates are down, and it’s wonderful. They asked me where it was and I said ‘City View Cemetery!’”
Most people that have gone through a year like Dori has wouldn’t find much to laugh about, especially while preplanning their funeral. However, she’s a firm believer that you have to find the humor and positivity in everything.
“I’ve always felt that attitude is what gets you through life,” she said. “I walked into the funeral home with a positive attitude and when I walked out I was excited because I’d had so much fun doing it.”
“You might say, ‘How can you be excited about buying your gravesite?’ But I was because I’d never done anything like that before.”
More importantly, Dori said she was thrilled to have done something truly meaningful for her children and was confident that her decisions will spare them from unnecessary grief, frustration, and economic burden.
“I feel better about myself and I feel better because I know that I don’t have to put my kids through what they’ve gone through in the past,” she said. “I’d do anything in the world for my kids.”
While Dori still loves to tell people about her “second home” at City View Cemetery, she’s mostly focused on her work – doing in-home care for seniors – and enjoying every moment with Terry, her children, and grandkids. She knows all too well that life can be fleeting and it’s important to make a positive impact in the world however you can.
“I want to be a rainbow in somebody’s life and leave a song in their heart,” she said. “That’s what life’s all about. Help someone, share a little joy, and leave them with a good feeling.”Tweet
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