5 Things I Learned About Living From My Parents’ Dying

In June of 2014 my mother passed away.  Just a few days short of 6 months later, my father followed her.  The year before that, my grandmother passed.  As the newly crowned Queen of The Universe Matriarch of the Family it fell to me to make a lot of the financial and practical arrangements.  Here are some things I learned about living from watching my parents pass away:

#1:  Do not put off living until ‘someday’ when you can afford it or you have time or you are retired or whatever.  Someday might never come.  You really can’t take it with you and while it is nice for your family to have some inheritance, they would rather have seen you enjoy your life with it.

#2: Do not let your world get smaller and smaller and smaller until your universe is your house, with occasional forays to the doctor office or the hospital.  It can be easy as we age to get in a rut and find pushing our boundaries to be emotionally and physically exhausting.  Fight that.  Fight it really hard!!!  Living your life instead of just waiting out the clock depends on it!   Travel.  Learn new things.  Go back to school.  Take up a new hobby.  Exercise your brain and your body.  Be flexible.  Examine who you are today.   Re-think your automatic thought processes— why do you believe what you believe?    Does it still make sense given all the wisdom you have gathered.  Expand your horizons.  Live Your Life Hard.

#3 Make your funeral arrangements now.  Today.  Do not force the people you love who you leave behind to make your decisions for you are what is likely a very sad and emotional time in their lives. If you can’t afford to, then what makes you think your loved ones will be able to later?  Funeral homes have ways of helping you afford to make your plan.   Also make sure your affairs are in order.  Establish a trust so your assets are easier to disburse and you don’t cause conflict amoung the family after you are gone.  Make a will also that puts words on paper to your wishes.  Who do you want to get Grandma’s wedding ring?  Do you want to wear it yourself?   Make a legal end of life plan.  Do you want your organs donated?  Do you want to have extreme life saving measure performed on you?  Do not make your family try to figure out what you would want them to do.  Under the best of circumstances this is excruciating.  I will have a follow up post on this later.

#4  Apologize now for turning into a jerk in your old age.  Apparently it is inevitable to turn into a grumpy, complaining, non-compliant jerk as you get close to the end of your life.   Tell your family now that you understand that they will do their best for you when the time comes and that you appreciate what they will have to do on your behalf.  You will probably not remember to do this when the situation presents itself and you can elivate a lot of guilt now.  It is a nightmare trying to deal with a parent who has become a child.  Let them off the hook for the hard choices they will have to make in the future. 

#5 Write letters to leave your loved ones.  Do it now.  You can do more as time goes on if you are worried they will get old and out of date.  This is especially important if you have a hard time expressing yourself.  Do not assume that your kids will understand that you loved them.  They might need proof, especially if you turned into a jerk at the end.



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