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Preparing for Death – Part 1

Posted May 02 2010 2:31am

Yeah, I know this sounds depressing, down-right morose and all that stuff.  But I’ve learned a few things in the last few weeks.  Today I spent the afternoon at the Funeral home helping a friend make plans  for his wife’s funeral.  And there’s a few practical things I want to share with you.

Of course, you should already have these things in place ( A WARNING, HIRE AN ATTORNEY TO PREPARE THESE DOCS, I AM NOT GIVING YOU LEGAL ADVICE!!!):

  1. A will – and any codicils or amendments that are needed so that your personal items are bequeathed appropriately.
  2. A medical Power of Attorney – very necessary for those of us who know we’ll someday be incapacitated and unable to make decisions about our own care.
  3. A “Do Not Resuscitate” document – IF you want to make sure you are NOT fed by tubes, etc. or if you don’t want heroic actions taken in your final days.

These are all common sense legal documents that everyone should have – even if they DON’T have Parkinson’s Disease!

Today I want to talk about the things that you and your spouse or family may NOT have thought about.  It’s uncomfortable talking to our loved ones about our final plans, but I realized today that without this type of conversation, no one can remember or be expected to remember what I really want.

So, I’m going to divide this discussion into 3 parts and will cover these topics over the next few days:

  1. Funeral planning – yeah, the nitty gritty for some of us.
  2. Full disclosure – financial, internet passwords, and other sticky situations.
  3. Recording our wishes.

While you may be “put off” by this posting, I want to say a few things about funerals and planning for our own funerals.  It’s so hard to discuss this with our families because many of them don’t want to face the fact that we may not live as long as they would like.  However, knowing the facts about any chronic health condition is essential in giving us the freedom to plan now, and keep our loved ones from angst and financial ruin over guilt-ridden choices.

  1. Make your wishes known now between burial and cremation.  Don’t expect your spouse or children to be able to make that decision when they are suffering in grief.  Take the time to do the research now, and make a decision.  Some of us may have the financial ability to prearrange our funerals and if you are one of those folks, then I encourage you to go ahead and do it!  That takes ALL of the guess-work out of the preparations.  And besides that, I saw how EXPENSIVE all of this can be.  Making arrangements in advance will guarantee that your family won’t be guilt-ridden into going the MOST expensive route.
  2. If you are religious or have an affiliation with a denomination, begin writing down the scriptures, hymns, worship choruses, chants, whatever that you want at your services. Give some thought to where you’d like those services to happen – graveside, inside, or both.  Or perhaps you want to be buried in your family cemetery?  Does anyone know this?  A little planning and expressing your desires now will save a lot of heartache for those you love later on.
  3. If you have specific wishes for your services, have you communicated this to your priest, pastor or rabbi?  These specific directives will give these spiritual leaders direction and guidance as they prepare their remarks for your services.  Even if you’re not chronically ill, it’s a good practice to be able to jot down details you may want mentioned at your service or graveside.
  4. Jot down vital statistics about your family.  Don’t expect your spouse to remember your mother’s maiden name, or  your father’s middle name.  Obituaries are comprised of these types of facts, and you’ll make it easier on everyone if you record this type of information in advance.  Take the time to list your siblings, important events in your life (i.e. college degrees, advanced certification) and anything that you may want in your Obituary mentioning your professional accomplishments.
  5. Discuss details about your interment.  Do you want to wear your jewelry or do you want it removed before you are buried?  Do you want your casket closed or open?  Will your State Laws allow you to be refrigerated, or do you HAVE to be embalmed?  Do you want your ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean, or do you want to be in a Mausoleum? Would you prefer donations be made to a specific charity or organization rather than having flowers?  You must speak up while you are able if you do have a preference.

I would suggest that you keep a small diary, or notebook with those type of details listed.  When I asked my elderly friend today to tell me his wife’s favorite hymns, he drew a blank and couldn’t remember.  I want my favorite music at my services – I don’t want someone else choosing for me!! If I never tell anyone this information, then how can I expect them to know?

As I said above, jot these things down, put them in a folder and tell someone in your family where they can be located.  If you’re not ready to discuss the “nitty gritty” with your spouse and children now, at least they will have access to your thoughts, desires and lists once the time comes for a decision to be made.

More tomorrow on those pesky Internet IDs and passwords, and transparency in our relationships.

Filed under: Cancer , Death , Preparing to die
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