While crouching under my kitchen table the other evening, my white knuckles gripping its legs and my heart pounding behind my eyeballs, I found my mind covered quite a bit of territory during the thirty-eight seconds it took for my house to stop rolling during our recent 6.9-magnitude earthquake. For instance… are my affairs really in order? What if this was the big kahuna?
I think about impermanence and dying throughout the course of almost every day. I am surrounded by it in the work that I do, and this contemplation is a foundation for my spiritual practice. So… I thought I was pretty good to go. I live simply with a basically uncomplicated life. Don’t owe money. Possessions are relatively few. I have a legal will in place. I’ve appointed someone to make health care decisions for me if I find that I can’t. I have a designated Durable Power of Attorney in the event of my incapacitation, someone who is also the executor of my estate in the case of my unfortunate demise. Everything seemed to be responsibly in place – or so I assumed.
Not quite, according to a friend of mine who spent months last year researching all aspects of death and dying. It became a project of his, and he was thorough. Particularly, he examined what happens after the funeral, something most of us don’t think about because we’ll be dead and gone. Poof. Disembodied, nothing to do on this material plane anymore. However, some poor soul, usually a loved one, will be left holding the bag. In the midst of grief and coming to terms with loss, they will also need to close out our life as well as get rid of a lifetime of accumulations. I took a closer look at what that would actually entail because I had no idea. What an eye opener.
I saw immediately that it was an act of supreme kindness and generosity to my loved ones to take responsibility now before the big one hits, or I get a terminal diagnosis or get run over on the street corner.
Ask yourself: Does your designated person have access to your accounts? Passwords? What bills will need to be terminated that get paid by automatic deductions? Where do you keep the pink slip for your car? Do they have the information to close out your on-line life? Amazon Prime, Netflix, social media accounts etc? Are your policies in one place? What sources of income do you have that others might not know about? Will someone come knocking on their door looking for the money you owe them? Do you have a list of people with numbers that they should notify of your death? Professional organizations?
Have you thought about and made clear your personal desires for the time of your dying? In a perfect world, who would you like to be there to support you? What do you wish to have done afterward? Funeral? Cremation? Memorial? It is so much easier for loved ones to carry out your explicit wishes rather than having to figure it all out themselves.
Even though I do not own much, I took great pleasure creating a will and mentally giving everything away to specific people in my life while I am still alive. It has helped to loosen my grip on clinging to my stuff. I continue to update it when I get new ideas.
One does not need a lawyer; there are resources available. My friend recommends this book: The Funeral is Just the Beginning – Everything You Need to Do When a Loved One Dies by Amy Levine. There is a computer program that is complete and makes it pretty simple: Quicken WillMaker Plus, Version 2014.
Feeling the ground shake beneath my feet was impetus enough for me to get my shit together. Some day we will breathe out and not breathe in again, and someone will have to deal with what we leave behind. Think about it. Please share this information with others. It is one of the kindest things you can do for the people you love. When I was done, I felt like a grown-up!