Patio Press brings you acclaimed author Margie Jenkins
The little guy on the front cover of You Only Die Once created a lot of curiosity. People who attend my end-of-life presentations ask if that picture is me kicking the bucket. I tell them, “No. Not yet.”
Back in the 1970’s, I was in my fifties and applied for graduate school at the University of Houston (UH). I was rejected because I was too old. They were saving places for minority students and young people who could make a contribution. At age 51, they doubted I could do that. Disappointed and angry, I asked for an interview and they agreed.
Nervous--but determined, I walked into the admissions counselor’s office. Can you keep up with younger students? At your age, why do you want to go back to school? What can you contribute? After our 20 minute interview, he looked me in the eye and said, “Well, Mrs. Jenkins, this next class needs a chronologically mature, white female, and you might fit the bill.” So I became their token little old white lady in the graduate program of 1974. I respect and am deeply grateful to UH for giving me the opportunity to attend graduate school. That experience changed my life.
After two challenging years, I graduated with a masters degree in social work. For over 30 years, I had a private practice as a therapist in Houston. At age 60, I also became a newspaper columnist.
As a psychotherapist for over 30 years, I saw many clients facing end-of-life issues. Most of them didn’t have a clue about what was involved. There was a need to help people prepare for life’s final journey. So at age 79, I wrote the book, You Only Die Once, …hoping to inspire you to prepare for life’s ending and write down your end-of-life choices before it’s too late. Many decisions you can make now instead of leaving that burden for your loved one.
When this book first came out, a bike rider at my gym asked, “What’s it about, Margie?”
“It’s called You Only Die Once, Preparing for the End of Life With Grace and Gusto.”
“Whoa,” he said, “I’m only 39. I don’t need to read your book.”
I reminded him that obituaries report deaths of people from infants to over 100. He had two kids, ages 8 and 10, and questioned when is a good time to talk with them about death.
“When is a good time to talk with them about sex?” I asked.
“Oh, are they related?” he wondered.
“Kind of,” I said. “Don’t wait till your kids go out on their first date to talk with them about sex. And don’t wait till you’re on your death bed to talk with them about death.”
“So, who should read your book?” he inquired.
My response, “This book is only for people who think they will die someday or know someone who will.”
This subject has become my passion--to help people overcome resistance to discussing end-of-life issues. My husband, Jenks, and I have been invited to give hundreds of presentations on this subject at churches, retirement communities, universities, conferences, hospitals, FBI groups, and hospices. We crisscrossed the country from Vermont to Oregon, Wisconsin to Florida, and Texas to California speaking on this subject.
After You Only Die Once was published, I wrote the companion workbook, My Personal Planner. It provides a roadmap to help you make end-of-life choices and write them down.
When Jenks and I were 88, we continued to encourage people to plan for life’s last chapter by making a DVD and CD of our presentation, “Don’t Slam the Door On Your Way Out.” These recordings provide personal insights into our mission to motivate you to explore this inevitable stage of life. And it can be an enjoyable journey.
At age 90, I became the author of the material and presenter in the videos of the You Only Die Once study course, a six session video program offered on internet to churches, schools, and other organizations. The course offers stepping stones for 1) creating your own end-of-life plan, 2) knowing the benefits of making funeral choices ahead of time, 3) passing on your values and cherished possessions, and 4) it offers guidelines for living bodaciously and enriching your spirituality.
Jenks and I lived in Houston for over forty years and we are the parents of four children and four grandchildren. I am sad to say that in March, 2016, Jenks, a retired executive of Conoco Phillips died at age 93. I fill the big hole in my heart with happy memories of the seventy years we spent together.