Content warning: Death and death-related topics ahead
I’ve heard my boss say, on more than one occasion, that “nobody gets out of life alive.” She doesn’t say a lot that’s worth repeating, but this is one of her finest and most salient comments.
We’re all gonna die one day.
And yes, many of us hope that it will happen way down the road when we’re super old and we’ve accomplished everything and our bones hurt so much that death will look like a welcome friend.
Some of us, though we are still young, feel that pain in our bones now and might sometimes wonder if it would be so bad if it comes a little sooner.
Some of us are terrified of both aging and death, and we live out our formative years avoiding the topic. I imagine most of those people didn’t get past the content warning.
And sometimes, we hear a story and are faced with the stark reality that most of us do not have control over when it happens – not for ourselves and not for our loved ones. As it ought to be.
It doesn’t really matter what your relationship with death is – the fact is, we are all going to have one some day.
So, if you have people or causes in your life that matter to you, get your shit together.
Yes, it’s probably more important to do this if you have assets, but even if you don’t – you can leave behind instructions for your loved ones on what you’d want in the unfortunate event of a terrible accident. How do you want your remains handled? I’m telling you right now, that shit is EXPENSIVE. Can you set aside anything to help with those expenses?
Also, there are documents you might want to consider having in your files – like an Advanced Directive or a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) if that’s what you’re into, or a Power of Attorney or Healthcare Proxy for someone you trust to make legal or medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated or unconscious.
If you do have assets – talk to a professional. Homes and life insurance policies and other large financial assets…if you don’t square this stuff away, then depending on where you live and your legal marital status, everything can go haywire after you’re gone. You have absolutely no say in it unless you’ve figured it all out in advance.
Now, when my husband died – we had none of these things. I know he would not have wanted to be resuscitated. He was miserable and in pain all the time, and he’d said as much..but we did not have this document signed and notarized. I watched as the paramedics tried (to no avail) to bring him back, somewhat terrified that they’d succeed and he’d be in even MORE pain than he was before from the way they’d had to handle his body.
And, because he was my husband and we live in California, when he died – everything he owned automatically became mine. But if we hadn’t been married yet, without the documentation to back it up – his half of my house that we bought together might have ended up in probate, paying off his personal debt or in his ex-wife’s hands, as the legal guardian of his underage daughter.
And that’s a pretty straightforward relationship: husband and wife. What if we’d been polyamorous? Lots of you are. Lots of you are in long term relationships with multiple people and some of those people don’t really like each other. Do you want to leave it up to them to figure out who gets what?
One of the biggest shocks to my system after he died was that I could no longer call him to ask him the simplest questions. Like “Where is the charger cable for that really expensive camera you bought?” or “What is the password for our cable account?”
They can’t ask you what you would have wanted. They can only guess.
So make it easy for them.
And, if you don’t have people in your life or if you are so inclined, remember that there are charitable causes out there that can also be listed as beneficiaries of your estate, if you’re into that sort of thing.
This semi-morbid post brought to you by the learning of Chris Cornell’s passing this morning at the age of 52 – same age as my late husband.
Nobody gets out of life alive. Get it together while you still can.