I’m serious. You need to prepare. Not as in plan your own death of course. I mean prepare for your death by thinking about it, talking about it, planning what will happen in the event of your death and who needs to know.
It’s an uncomfortable subject, but one we should all be talking about nonetheless.
When my mum died we found a list of things to do and places to go which made the job or organising her affairs after her death as easy as is could possibly have been. She and I had also spent time talking about death so I knew she didn’t want to be embalmed and that she wanted to be buried under a tree, so again, that made things easier when it came to planning her funeral.
I talk to my kids about what I would like (humanist – we even know the celebrant they will ask), what they want to do with my ashes (some will be sprinkled at Lake Vyrnwy waterfall) and what they need to do for the funeral and wake (whatever they like is fine with me).
It’s time to talk about death…
Talking about your death with those whom it will affect is an act of care not of morbidity.
Ask anyone who has been faced with not only the tidal wave of grief, but also a barrage of practical issues about which they just have no idea what to do for the best.
If you’re not married then you are not legally next of kin unless there is some legal assignation and that can mean, that in the event of your death, it is not the person with whom you have lived for so many years who decides what happens at your death, but it could be their parents or their children.
This needs talking and thinking about.
Have you told people if you want to be buried or cremated? Do you want a religious or a secular funeral? A party or a wake or nothing? Black clothes or party outfits? Embalmed or used for organ donation or handed over to medical science? Hymns or favourite music and which in particular?
Then what about the legal side of things.
Don’t tell me you haven’t got a will? Really? Especially if you have children or if you are not married a will is crucial. It saves family battles and hurt and just makes the whole process clearer and faster.
If you have remarried and you want to protect your children from a previous marriage’s rights the will is the sure-fire way of doing that.
Do you have life insurance which will look after your kids if you aren’t around? Have you made sure any pensions have nominations for who will receive your pension when you die? None of this is fun but you owe it to those you love to spend a couple of days sorting this out so that they are protected and as financially secure as possible in the event of your death.
The last thing they will need to cope with is debt and poverty when they are bereaved.
Do people know where your bills are kept (they will have to cancel your phone, your car repayments)? Do people know your online passwords so they can close down any accounts you have there?
Where are your passport and driving licence and do people know?
There is an unbelievable amount of paperwork to cope with after a death just when the bereaved are in the worst state of mind for doing it. Help them out ahead of time and make it all clear.
You might think you don’t need to do this yet, that you are young, healthy, fit. But daily we read of accidental deaths. Neither our money, nor youth or intelligence can protect us from death. It comes at the zebra crossing when the car didn’t stop, on the motorway, when we trip and fall and bang our head, when we get sick.
No one caught up in the recent Manchester or London attacks and fire started those days thinking ‘today is the day I will die, I had better get my affairs in order’. None of us do.
So, do it now.
Commit to dealing with the plans and paperwork by the end of the month. You would find the time and energy to do it if you knew for sure you were going to die but we don’t all get to know so do it now. Look after those who are left.
You owe it to them.