This month I’m drafting my living will and estate planning. I will not only allocate my assets, investments, art, and well cared for West Elm furniture to my friends and family, but I will also draft how I wish to die. What will happen to my body, how I want it to be prepared and what type of funeral I want to have will be typed out in a nicely formatted document and notarized to be carried out when I leave this earth.
My experience with death is rooted in logistics. A few years ago my brother and I spent Christmas with my mother to discuss the logistics of her estate. We ordered American Chinese food, cried, and reviewed her will and engaged in my mothers retirement planning. She gave us keys to locks that would help us when she dies, pointed out the scrapbooks she kept of our childhood in the garage and presented my brother and I with instructions of what she wants us to do with her remains.
More recently, my uncle passed away and my family gathered in celebration of his great life. The loss of my cousins’ father, my aunt’s life partner and a beloved member of our family is a contrast to how my mother is directing the end of her life. One was planned (at least the aftermath of the estate, I don’t want to live in a world without my mom in it) and the other was so sudden. I wonder what relief my family could have experienced if everything material was accounted for, how much easier it would have been to grieve.
In reflection of my own death plans, I know I can’t plan for when or how I’ll meet death. I can leave my family and friends the gift of easy grief in packing up what’s left of me when the time does come. In designing what happens to my possessions, old journals and scrapbooks I will inherit from my mom, I feel I can exhibit some control over a concept I will have absolutely no control over. I’ll also dictate how I want to be buried, if I want to be buried. What happens if I live a long and happy life? Will I have children who will scatter my ashes somewhere? A simple action item I’ve now crossed off of my to-do list for December has opened the door to thoughts on death and dying, and what will happen to my remains when my soul is no longer Earthside.