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UPDATED: Lueck wins Miss Pequot Lakes, Miss Congeniality titles - Weise, Yutrzenka princesses

Vogt's Notes: A conflicted time of life

I came away from her funeral with four booklets - one each for my husband, me, my dad and my mom. They're from the funeral home and are called "Putting My House In Order." They guide you through pre-arrangements and personal affairs so family members have the information after you die. PineandLakes.com Illustration

We're all living the "stages" of life. Depending on our age, some of us have lived through more stages than others.

For my generation, the "wedding stage" came in our mid-20s, when we attended lots of friends' weddings. The "baby stage" followed rather quickly, and we were hosting or attending lots of baby showers in our late 20s and early 30s.

Now, in our 50s, our kids are getting engaged and/or having babies.

And, I am learning, we are attending funerals. Our parents are in their 70s and 80s, and we're realizing they're not immortal.

This is the first stage of life where I am conflicted. I find myself wrestling with both happy and sad emotions.

Happy because we have engagements in the family, including my stepson, his longtime girlfriend and her son. Happy because we have pregnancies in the family, with a nephew due any day and another niece or nephew coming in the fall.

Sad because we unexpectedly lost my mother-in-law Jan. 24 this year, before she knew of one of the engagements and one of the expected great-grandchildren. Sad because a high school best friend lost her dad last month. Sad because those two deaths made me realize my parents won't live forever.

I've been fairly lucky in life in that I haven't attended a whole lot of funerals. There have been the "expected" deaths - grandparents; and unexpected - some relatives who died young, and a close neighbor who died tragically when he was 21.

Any death is sad and emotional, even those deaths that are "expected" or that we ultimately consider a "blessing." Unexpected deaths are even more difficult to accept.

My mother-in-law died two months after turning 75. These days, I consider that a relatively young age. Her death was unexpected and fast, which means it hit us that much harder.

Nearly two months later, I don't think I've totally accepted that she is no longer here. Because she lived nearly four hours away, we didn't see her or talk to her daily. So in my mind, she's still here. Reality will set in this summer, when we go to the nearby cabin and she's not there.

Her funeral was the first where I was in on the planning. What an overwhelming and educational experience.

I came away from her funeral with four booklets - one each for my husband, me, my dad and my mom. They're from the funeral home and are called "Putting My House In Order." They guide you through pre-arrangements and personal affairs so family members have the information after you die.

I'm realizing how important that is.

Luckily, my father-in-law and sister-in-law knew what kind of service my mother-in-law would like. It was beautiful, and she would have been proud.

No one wants to think about death. It's an ugly thought. But, as I and others have learned, we never know when it will happen. It's something families should discuss, no matter what our age.

Death is definitely not exciting, like an engagement or a pregnancy. But it is definitely a part of life. Like preparing for a marriage or a newborn, we need to plan for it so our wishes are fulfilled, and so the family members we leave behind aren't left wondering what to do.

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