Ok, we are going to have a couple of blog posts about dying to help me sort through my thoughts. Come back in a couple of days if you want to read about septic systems.
As executor of my Mom’s estate I am now working through the business end of dying. It is a complicated and expensive process. But we are proceeding well. Although my wine consumption is fairly high, my brother, sister and I are cooperating fully with each other in respect for our Mom.
Today we completed a major hurdle. One, I have dreaded for years. I assured Mom that her belongings would be divided fairly and that when the day was done we would all be happy. I know a woman who never again spoke to her sisters after losing her parents, when they argued over the distribution of chairs.
We began at 8am this morning after the first good night of sleep in two weeks. We drew cards for turns. Then, we alternated for choice…. at first the big ticket items were claimed, bedroom suites and dining room tables. Then groupings were suggested.. vases, baskets and dishes. We then moved on to the jewelry and finished with bargaining. Mom didn’t have a lot but she had good taste. Sentiment often played a larger part than monetary value. I took one bowl just because I remember that was the bowl for nuts every Christmas. All I really cared about was getting the map Mom bought when the two of us went to London in ’83. ..My siblings and I were done, exhausted and starving by 11:00 am. E. brought in lunch. All of us got from the draw most of what we wanted and felt we were walking away with what was important to us…
I then spent the afternoon going through my mom’s papers. If I can recommend something to you after this process.. There is no reason to keep 20 years worth of paperwork from your insurance agent. No one cares about your high school marks. That award you got for volunteer work in the community is pretty much irrelevant after fifteen years. Your diary from your time in the war is interesting, as are the love letters from your children’s father. The birthday cards you kept from your kids will make them smile when you are gone, but then they will burn them along with the recipes for fruit cake. If you have a picture of yourself in a miniskirt from when you were twenty with legs up to here and a waist measured in inches rather than feet…. leave it on the top of the box.
There is no reason to keep every pair of glasses that you and your mother and father ever owned. Take them to your optometrist she will donate them. Pictures of that gang of kids you partied with at the lake in ’47 are irrelevant to your children. They don’t care. Letters your children sent you from camp however, are fun for them to read.
I told you Mom and I had talked many times about what she hoped for in death. I found in her letters a document circulated through her friends. She showed it to me when I agreed to be her executor. I, in turn, will put it with my will for our kids and hope, that although it isn’t a legal document… they will read it to understand our wishes.
To my family, physician, my lawyer and all others whom it may concern:
If the time comes when I can no longer take part in decisions for my own future, let this statement stand as testament of my wishes:
If there is no reasonable expectation of my reasonable recovery from extreme physical or mental disability I, ____- of _______ request that I be allowed to die and not be kept alive by artificial means, heroic measures or medications.
Without restricting the generality of the forgoing, if, prior to my death, I am hospitalized and receiving medical treatment, I request that my doctors, nurses and any other medical personnel not use respirators, dialysis machines or any other unusual or artificial means to sustain my life during the terminal stage of any illness for which I am hospitalized,. It is my wish that my doctors, nurses and other medical personnel administer such medication as is necessary to ease and relieve any pain which I may have during a prolonged illness for which there is no reasonable expectation of my reasonable recovery but that no mechanical means of artificially prolonging my life be used nor any life supporting equipment be used to extend or prolong life,
Death is as much a reality as birth, growth, maturity and old age. It is the one certainty. I do not fear death as much as I fear the indignity of deterioration, dependence and hopeless pain. I ask that medication be mercifully administered to me for terminal suffering even if it hastens the moment of death.
This request is made after careful consideration. Although this document is not legally binding, you who care for me will, I hope feel morally bound to follow its mandate. I recognise that it places a heavy burden or responsibility upon you, and it is with the intention of sharing that responsibility and of mitigating any feelings of guilt that this statement is made.
I followed my Moms wishes. After the division of her assets, I am confident her children are all still speaking, even though the prized weathervane is still under negotiations.
I am looking forward to going home soon and expect that once my house has a deck and a new roof and, well, I’ll be frank…. walls… I will head up to the studio, pull out the box carrying my prized treasures and a lifetime of documents and throw
them all out