This is a really loaded question because you actually have to contemplate your own demise. But it’s not just about you telling others what you want, you need to know what your family wants too.
There’s never a good time to talk about death, but I thought it may be appropriate to do in the midst a pandemic societal lockdown where you’re bored and need something to occupy your time.
For the average person, preparing for an illness or accident is not, understandably, even on their radar. People of all ages pass away every single day but if tragedy were to strike tomorrow would you know what someone close to you wants in terms of medical care or for a funeral service and do others know what you want?
My question to you is, do you know what your parents want done if something happens to them? How about your partner? Adult child? Friend? Sibling? Heck, do you know what you want?
When I speak of knowing what you want I’m referring to those difficult questions like Burial vs. Cremation?
A simple definition:
Burial: is the act of placing a dead body within a coffin which is lowered into the ground and covered with earth.
Cremation: is the disposal of a dead body by burning it down to ashes. This usually takes place in a crematorium, and they return the ashes to the family.
Some people feel strongly about one or the other for personal or religious reasons. There is no right and no wrong way.
Another thing you may want to tell your family is whether you want to be an organ donor. This selfless act can save or improve a stranger’s life, but it’s a difficult choice to make. If a loved one knows your thoughts on the issue (or even better if you’ve signed up as an organ donor or opted out) it can make the sudden decision easier to make. Again this is a personal choice and there should be no pressure to answer either way. For me, I’ve signed up to be an organ donor but I don’t want my eyes touched–that’s a personal thing for me. I do not want anyone pressuring my family and those are my wishes. If you have a preference, let people know.
Be aware of some restrictions: if there are no facilities in your town to harvest the organs then the medical team could transport the body to a larger centre. Make sure if/before they take your loved one away that they will return their remains at no expense. The last thing you need is any extra stress.
Knowing what your family wants is imperative because if the time comes and there are questions, you want to state their wishes with certainty.
Here’s a list of questions you can ask your loved one to fill out and give back to you. You should do the same and make sure everyone close to you has a copy. This is not an official living will as it isn’t a legal document for choices of care. You can write them down here but they can always be challenged if not in a legally binding agreement done up with a lawyer.
How many times have we seen a spouse of a comatose patient disagree with the wishes of the parents? This is heartbreaking to see and unnecessary if you make a will (and official living will) and have it notarized. Talk to your family and all those around you.
This is not about finances and such—you need a proper legal will for those kinds of things. But here’s a few things for you to write down and share with others in your life especially if you are critically injured in an accident or heaven forbid die (without a will).
- Upon death, do you want Burial or Cremation?
2. Any special instructions as per above? ie: is there a plot already paid for? Already have the outfit in mind? No detail is too small.
3. Service Instructions? Do you want a religious funeral? Small house service? Celebration of Life? A big party? Any special songs? Poems? Readings? Flowers? What do you want? AND what do you NOT want?
4. Do you have a charity of choice? Do you want donations in your name?
5. Do you want to donate your organs? Any specific instructions or restrictions (You’re the boss):
6. Do you want to prolong your life with a respirator? Please elaborate. This gets into the whole medical thing but it doesn’t hurt to express it in a shared document telling what you want.
List out your wishes, sign, and date it. Have someone you’ve known for a long time witness it. Seal individual copies in envelopes and give to your family and friends for safe keeping. If things change over the years then update your friends/family as necessary.
If you want things done legally, then you need to either go to a lawyer or notary to have a will drawn up. You may include your health care choices in such a document and provide a copy to your doctor and family.
For my purposes I’m just looking to open the discussion so you can explore the choices, relay your decisions, and listen to what others have to say too.
It never hurts to be prepared.
Ask your 25 year old son what he wants or thinks. Ask your spouse if you don’t already know the answer. How about your niece who loves to travel all over the world? Take a few minutes and write it down so your family need not be forced to choose for you.
In the meantime, stay safe and stay healthy.