Thursday, August 25, 2011

What I did on my summer vacation...

I spent my summer vacation planning my funeral.

I guess that seems odd. As far as I know, I am not dying. I recently celebrated my 48th birthday. With the exception of a bad case of reflux (exacerbated by my addiction to Diet Coke), and a few aches and pains in various joints, I seem to be in remarkably good health.

But I have been thinking a lot about death lately.

Maybe it is because so many people I have cared about have died in the last few years. My regular readers know about the death of my friend Terri-Lynn two years ago—a death that left a big hole in my heart. Her death still enrages me and fuels my political activism for universal healthcare.

But there are others. There was Maria—the first of my Invisible Friends to die. She was posting and e-mailing me one day—and then she was gone, at age 45, from lupus. There was Kate (age 55), Lisa (age 50), Kathy (age 49), and Sharon (age 47)—all dead from cancer, between October 2007 and March 2010. There was Roseann (age 56), who died of kidney failure. And, of course, there is Kirstin (age 40), who died July 1 of metastatic melanoma, and Goran (age 57) who died on July 29 of prostate cancer.

In the midst of life, we are in death….

If the actuarial tables are accurate—and my family history is any guide—I have many more years left on this planet. But life is uncertain…and I travel a lot. For the past couple of years, I’ve had this nagging feeling that I should plan for my death.

So that’s what I did.

Dear Friend and I made wills and signed advance directives and Powers of Attorney for healthcare and business before we got married—so we had already taken care of those things.

It was the stuff I knew would be problematic in the wake of some kind of unexpected or traumatic death that worried me. Would my family know how to cash in my life insurance policy? Would they know where all the bank accounts were located? What about the credit cards? What would happen with my blog and my Facebook page if I died?

There will be surprises if I die suddenly—no one can foresee all the issues. But my family now has a complete list of accounts, contact numbers, and instructions about what they need to do in the aftermath. I’ve even set out a basic set of instructions about the funeral—I felt an irrational desire to ensure that no one would decide to include liturgical dance [shudder] as a final practical joke on me…

All in all, it was a cathartic experience—not sad or depressing at all. I highly recommend that you do it yourself.