Thoughts and such like.....
Did my headline stop you in your tracks? Death is a funny thing, it's inevitable, as someone once said, we're not getting out of here alive!, however so many of us find it hard to talk about. I don't have a problem talking about my own with my kids, they already say I'm weird, so this this is another example to add to their list, but to raise it in conversation with others hmmm, that's more difficult.
This subject came about when I was talking with a colleague a couple of weeks ago, he asked me in my work with Third Actors or retirees, do I talk about death? An interesting question, and up to now, no I haven't. It got me thinking about why not. It's relevant to aging, particularly for those working through their Third Act - and yet I don't. I think partly because in Western society we are taught, whether by our teachers/parents or society itself that death is a taboo subject, and partly because, if we really look deeply, we all want to hope that we will live forever, and if we don't talk about it, it'll put death off for another wee while. But death is something that does happen to us all, and isn't it healthier to talk about it and our wishes for what will happen to our bodies, our possessions etc.. now, rather than to let our heirs and loved ones figure it out? In my former life in as a Not-for-profit specialist, I often spoke to grieving partners and children about their loved one, many were sad that they hadn't known much about the wishes of that person who had passed, or who said 'I wished I'd just asked them'. What was even sadder was the stories of hurt and regret, or those families who were torn apart because of their differing views about what should happen, or about who would inherit what.
Initially talking about death with my kids, was a bit like talking to them as teenagers about sex and how to treat girls, it was done in small bites, and in the car - they couldn't escape! Now they still don't like it, but they're more used to it. My point is, that my kids know where the legal stuff is, what my wishes are and my expectations of them both. Of course, I don't want to die, at least not yet, but it is important to prepare them for the inevitable. So why not talk to clients planning their Third Act about the importance of preparation for the end of life?
Death is the ultimate level playing field, it comes to us all. Unless we are extremely vindictive, none of us want to add to the pain felt by our loved ones at our death, and yet so many of us don't have everything in place for them - the ultimate roadmap if you will.
I remember the first time after having children that I thought of my own death. I was newly separated and needed to ensure all their needs would be met. I had visited my solicitor and signed my Will and was supposed to go onto a meeting. The meeting was cancelled last minute, and so I had time to spare and went into the local library, where I proceeded to write a letter to my kids. I can only imagine the thoughts of those around me as I wept and snorted my way through three pages.... I wrote to them about how much they were loved, I talked about who would be entrusted with their care, and why I had decided upon those individuals, as well as who would be the trustees of any money from insurance policies etc... I still have that letter, it is among several that I have written to them throughout the years, and was the beginning of an ongoing story of love and pride in who they were, and have become. I want them to have the letters, to understand a little more about their mum, and to remember the love I have for them with joy in their hearts. While I understand they will mourn, I also urge them to remember that I will always be with them
Death is a time of separation, but also a time of remembrance. Thinking about it is a time to check with yourself and who you are. How do you want to be remembered; by your family; friends and colleagues? Me, I want my kids, family and friends to mourn me when I go, but also to celebrate who I am and how I have impact their lives.
The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. (Mark Twain)
This is a short list of things that I have come across, if you want to check your own preparedness:
Maeve O'Byrne's Blog