Let’s talk about the open secret that we all know and don’t talk about.
We will ALL die—no exceptions.
Many have said “Death is one appointment we will all keep;” so for all those who believe this to be true, this letter is addressed to you. For those that will be pursuing the Cryonics route, please bypass this memo and return to your regularly scheduled programming.
As we speak, my mother is in ICU. Although, she is still conscious, she is virtually unable to communicate due to being on a breathing machine. Furthermore, her pulmonologists and primary care doctor have recently explained that it is not likely she will be coming off that breathing machine and her health is expected to further decline.
You can imagine that this is hard-hitting news. As much as I smile, meditate, think happy thoughts and pray; there’s also times that I cry spontaneously in the car.
Dealing with the already heavy emotions of an impending loss of a parent is hard. More to the point, making end of life decisions like Do Not Resuscitate orders and hospice without the luxury of being able to discuss it with your ill parent is excruciatingly painful.
We’ve gathered here today because I would like to impress the high importance of doing one of the greatest kindnesses for your children that you will ever do. Talk about your death.
Before you freak out, I know it’s not the fluffiest topic for you or your children and I am absolutely suggesting you consider age-appropriateness of the conversation. However, no matter when you do it—DO IT.
That includes ALL parents: new parents, seasoned parents, soon-to-be-parents, adoptive parents, grandparents, guardians, etc.
Adult children, this letter is for you too because sometimes we have to be the ones to initiate the first step.
I know this is scary because when I talk to my friends, we reminisce about the moment our parents had the sex talk with us. Even those parents that screamed “Lord, Holy Father, please keep your legs closed!” still acknowledged it.
I do not recall any of my friends mentioning that their parents had the death talk with them.
It’s just too depressing!
We haven’t gotten around to it.
Mr. SomeoneOtherThanMe has taken care of it (though I find it interesting that nobody is curious as to what Mr. SomeoneOtherThanMe actually wrote in the documents).
Funny Fact: At one point, I spent precious time and energy putting a legal power of attorney in place and trying to get a medical power of attorney and you know what? Digging through some papers, I found out that my mom had both on file since the late ‘90s!
Therefore, just for the sake of not wasting unnecessary time and effort, it is worth taking a few minutes to discuss with your children what you have, what documents are still needed and where the paperwork is so they are not turning the house over trying to find it.
Below is a list of four critical documents that you will want to draft and discuss with your attorney and talk about with your children. There are a host of other documents that we can include in this post; however for the sake of brevity and necessity, I would focus on these four first.
As a side note, there are reasonably priced legal resources out there if you cannot afford one at a Johnny Cochran rate. However, if you have to invest the standard rate of an attorney for these services, the peace of mind to the person making decisions on your behalf will be well worth it.
Simple Will: Specifies items like who you want to name as guardian of your children and how you want your “stuff” distributed upon your death.
Living Will: Specifies what you want to happen should you have a tragic accident or illness and you are not able to communicate your wishes at that time.
Medical Power of Attorney: Appoints someone as a decision maker regarding your health if you are not able to.
Durable Financial Power of Attorney / Legal Power of Attorney: Appoints someone to manage your money and/or “stuff” if you are not physically or mentally able to such as paying bills, paying taxes and even talking to the mortgage company.
Additionally, below are a few more tips to ensure everyone is on the same page:
If you have minor children and have not already done so, it would be wise to start thinking of who you would want to name as a legal guardian and/or conservator. Once chosen, have a detailed conversation with them about your wishes.
Revisit and update this paperwork periodically as life events happen such as purchase of a new home or change in health status. Be sure to keep all necessary parties informed.
Be specific!! Share your thoughts and philosophy regarding end of life with your children and other loved ones. Talk with your doctor about various medical scenarios that you may face in a medical crisis. That way, you can ensure as much as possible that your values are honored as you transition.
Death is a natural process and it is about time that we make the conversation a natural part of that process.
Disclaimer: Please note that I am NOT a lawyer, this is for informational purposes only. Please contact a lawyer to review and verify all information provided in this post.