As a child, I feared death. Thinking about it moved me to tears. I’d like to think I am much more sensible now. I still want to live a long time, but I understand that the life cycle is beautifully fatal and that the magic of each day is living it as though you may never see another one.
Working in aging services taught me a lot about dying. It taught me that my fears have always been closely connected to my age. Most children want to grow up, live their life’s passion, fall in love, and maybe have children of their own. Death is scary because if it happens early in life, we lose lots of imagined opportunities. Older adults aren’t ready for death either. But many whom I’ve worked with demonstrate a high degree of contentment around the topic. Consider all that you’ve seen and experienced in your life thus far. Now imagine 90 or more years of living, complete with a natural breaking down of your body. The lethargy, the aches and pains, and the overall tiredness are apparent when I look into the eyes of some older adults.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that aging is depressing or bad. I am trying to illustrate the incredible strength and energy that it takes to age and mature, year after year.
In communities where older adults live in poverty, funeral and estate planning are an infrequent occurrence. Most of them think that estate planning is for those with property and lots of money in the bank. As a result, I’ve sat in my dim beige office more times that I can count, trying to help grieving (and sometimes greedy) families put all the pieces together.
It’s necessary that we all plan for the inevitable. It’s the fair and loving thing to do for our families and caregivers. In most cases, caregivers should have a full understanding of the recipient’s wishes as well as any insurance policies that will pay for funeral expenses. The recipient should also clarify in writing what they’d like to see happen to their personal belongings such as jewelry, vehicles, photographs, etc. Work with a free legal service, if possible, to develop a plan that will ensure the recipient’s wishes are met, and that familial disagreements after death are at a minimum.
Keep taking care,
Next: The Death Jackpot