This isn’t supposed to be a morbid post, but it does talk about death so it might be worth avoiding if that’s a topic that pains you.
When I think about my own death I try to make it about practicalities rather than wallowing in how dreadful it will be for the rest of the world be without me…(sorry, but we all have egos y’know). I think about how I want my end of life care to look, should I get those choices, and what mess or organisation I am leaving behind. Those are as far as my thoughts go, because I have already dealt with the idea of my non-existence.
I had no concerns about where I was before I was born, why should I worry about where I’ll be after I die?
My personal beliefs are that, when I die, the being with my name will cease to exist and what are currently my atoms with be absorbed back into the cycle of whatever the universe will use them for, but I understand why other people may find that difficult to accept. Our entire being screams out for survival, we cling to life against huge odds, this is how we have evolved to be. This is how we got past sabre toothed tigers and not having antibiotics.
The practicalities of dying are a concern, I’m not that fond of pain and I’d rather go at my own time of choosing, with some authority over my treatment. These are the topics that people avoid because….it will make it happen sooner? It will make it real in their minds? It will detract from the constant joy they are in otherwise (…on Instagram)?
But these are the topics that can save their loved ones from having to make agonising decisions and can ensure their voices are heard, even if they can no longer communicate.
So having already admitted to my love of lists, here’s another one:
- Swedish Death Cleaning. Do you really think your kids, or the local charity shop, want your copies of every Aston Villa Football Club programme from 1946-2009? Maybe they do, if you no longer enjoy them maybe you could make some space and pass them on now? (Or dispose of them before they become someone else’s problem). This is the kindest, most thoughtful, thing you can do in my opinion. Imagine (or re-live for those of you who have already had to do it) cleaning out the home of someone you love. Do you throw away their possessions with wild abandon, or do you feel guilty about every last object, even if you had no clue why they’d kept it? TALK to the people most likely to have to do this, tell them the story of Grand Auntie Mabels cheap jewellery that came all the way from Australia where she traveled to alone in 1925. They can decide if that’s a story they want to keep.
- Dignity in Dying. I support this charity because the idea of anyone, myself included, having to die a lingering, painful death, just because other people can’t deal with the idea of wanting to let go of a life that is no longer good, is incredibly frustrating to me. They wouldn’t do that to a pet, why force it upon me? (Oh yeah, religion…I forgot…)
- Because my ‘estate’ is not huge and complicated I used an online will template. It is all officially signed and stored, but the MOST IMPORTANT bit is discussing what is in it and where it is kept with the people who will need to know that stuff.
- At the same site is a Living Will template. This is the simplest way to record your end of life stuff…do you want lots of medical interventions or should they just pull the plug? MOST IMPORTANT bit…discuss this with the people who would otherwise have to make those decisions!
- Make lists. Make lists of passwords in particular. Most of our lives are online now, we pay our bills online, do our banking online and have online histories we might really want deleted after our deaths. Make lists of all of those and more. Tell your family (or friends) who your doctor is, where your home insurance documents are, who you want informed when you die. TALK to the people who will have to deal with the tax office and undertakers, so that they know, without having to stress about it, what you want and how to get it.
Point them to somewhere like this. Support them to care for you, dispose of your remains (including possessions) and to be able to remember you fondly. Then you can get on with living your remaining days, happy in the knowledge that you won’t be adding more grief than is necessary to the world when you are done.
Is there something I’ve missed? I want to get this right.