Let me tell a little about my true heroin. Aunty Holly. She was one of those full of life, stunning beauty, unique, successful women. She was the quintessential beach babe, a small time model, for something called Coca-Cola, a Waikiki disco Queen, and later, the coolest mom ever. She owned her own fashion boutique in Southern California and built the most beautiful home from the ground up.
Cancer, of course, always fucking takes these kinds. She fought and fought for over a decade and even when it had her in it’s grips, whenever she spoke you couldn’t help but think “Gosh why can’t I be that cool?” I can only be grateful for the time I did have with her, for the influence she had on my heart and my decisions in life.
And when we lost her, we all lost it in some form or another. Her husband and children struggled a expected; my mother, her sister, continues to go through the stages of grief (5 years later) over and over and over.
I remember on her last trip to Maui she said that she wanted to write a book with me, “How to Die”. She explained that there isn’t anything out there to prepare you for your own death. And it wasn’t dying she was talking about, it was the fear of how her family would carry on without her. Even a mother who is not facing death can relate to the “If I die tomorrow….” obssessions.
Will anyone be able to care for my children as well I do?
Will my husband help them grieve appropriately?
Will my husband loose his fucking mind and turn to drugs and hookers?
Are our finances secure enough without me? Does my husband even know the bank password?
Will my husband sell my bikinis for what their actually worth?
Obviously a lot of responsibility falls upon your spouse when you go. And for someone who can’t seem to rinse out his home lunch tupperware when putting it in the sink, I think its okay to worry about all of this falling on his shoulders.
Its not we don’t think that they are capable to handle the aftermath and all of the details. Its that, as mothers ,we are naturally caretakers and worriers and duty-calls- warriors and when we die its all out of our hands and we don’t like that feeling. I have even told my husband “If I die, please go out like the next day and find yourself a good girlfriend. Please.”
Okay, Okay. All joking aside–My husband is gonna kill me–pun intended–okay, that was the last one.
Auntie Holly and I never wrote our book. So this, Auntie, is dedicated to you.
FIVE WAYS TO PREPARE YOUR FAMILY FOR YOUR DEATH (whether your dying or not)
The financial thing was the thing that Auntie Holly talked about the most. From the Boating Insurance to your Victoria Secret card and everything in between, there are so many services we stack up along the way, whether we use them or now. There is no way in hell your spouse or dependents are going to be able to figure it all out. I’ve even heard divorcees talk about how utterly lost they were because their wife took care of all of the finances, and they didn’t know shit… right down to how to pay a bill online.
Create a binder with everything outlined. Every account, purpose of the account, and how to access the account. Example:
Website/Phone Number: 808-888-1234
Type of Account: Gym Membership
Balance (as of ____): $50.00 per month
How to cancel/modify service/pay off/disontinue: Call the above number and inform them, cancellation will be effective 30 days after your notification.
Don’t forget the tiny expenses such as your $7.00 per month ABC Mouse subscription. That shit adds up.
Another way to help your family financially is by saving. College savings, retirement account. Leave them a small financial pillow that can help them in the future. And start today, or tomorrow or the next day. If not now, when?
Any assets that you have set up can be put into a Trust which will make it easier for your dependents to acquire after your passing.
MAKE YOUR POST-MORTEM MEDICAL WISHES CLEAR
Almost everyone has heard of a Living Will, but only a small percentage of people actually have one. A Living Will addresses things that aren’t comfortable to talk about, but totally essential. Things like, If I am in a medical vegetative state, I want my family to A) pull the plug B) don’t give up on me, ever C) Give me a couple weeks; D) Squit breastmilk in my eye, see if that helps.
Making this decision before you are actually in a vegetative state can take a lot of pressure and hearths off of your next-of-kins shoulders. Because really, everyones desires would be difference and you can’t expect your family to know how you feel about things. You can ask your medical provider if they have a standard Living Will that you can fill out.
The subject of Organ Donation is another very serious and very beautiful decision to make, bit is not as simple as adding it to your driver’s license. It is important that you share your desires verbally with those closest to you so they understand your wishes, because ultimately they will be the ones to take action when it is time. Do you want to donate just major organs? How about your eyeballs? Is there anything you don’t want them to take?
This is the kind of conversation that is not mutually exclusive and its just as important that you know your partner’s wishes as well.
When I was little, I loved the idea of a tombstone. A place where your name is in stone for all time. Where your loved ones can “visit you” and pay respects. As I’ve grown, I’ve come to understand my claustrophobia a bit more and my spiritual beliefs have led me to appreciate the beauty and significance of the spreading of one’s ashes in nature.
Discuss with your next of kin what kind of services you would like. Who, What, Where, When, Why & How. Just as above, be sure to ask your spouse about their own funeral wishes.
There are also prepaid funerals that may be a beneficial investment if you find yourself at a maturing age or with a fatal diagnosis.
TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT DEATH
You just never know. In so many ways we long to protect our wee ones from thoughts or theories that way frighten them or break their innocence. However, death is as natural as birth, and slowly as they age, its important to share this fact with them. While losing your loved one is “NOT okay,” it will be okay, and it’s okay to not be okay for a while. Take them to funerals and offer to answer any question they may have.
In little and big ways, you can offer them examples of healthy ways of grieving. For someone like me, I was blessed to not have lost anyone close to me during my childhood. You don’t have to loose your nearest and dearest to experience and put to practice the different forms of healthy grieving.. whether it’s their Walmart fish who lasted 3 days, or a great grandparent who passed away before they were even born, show them different ways to honor loved ones who have passed.
I think the biggest way we show our children to be at peace with loss is to be at peace with our own mortality.