Friday, 20 November 2015

An uncomfortable undertaking

It was Benjamin Franklin who said that nothing in this world is certain except death and taxes. Some people, however, manage to find ways around the latter one. As of yet, though, no one has managed to get the better of the former.

The Grim Reaper will be visiting all of us ...
Death: The unwanted but unavoidable guest. (Image:
For something so inevitable, that many of us give very little, if any, considered thought in planning for our own demise  could be viewed in a puzzling light.

OK, you can make the argument that we're too busy living to be thinking about such morbid things. Plus, the younger you are and/or feel, taking time out to organise both how you want your body disposed of when you breathe your last and where and to whom you'd like your earthly belongings left may seem an unnecessary distraction. 'I've plenty of time for that sure.'

That may just be the case, but the thing is we never know exactly when we'll depart this world as we know it. Throw in the fact that the older you get or if faced with a potentially terminal illness, you may not want to think about death; imagining it might just bring it on more quickly.

Taking all these points together, then we'll never feel predisposed to preparing the legal and practical necessities for when we die. You could say it's a selfish approach; 'Let those I leave behind deal with all that pernickety stuff.'

Yet dealing with death is seldom easy, so we can all play our part in removing at least some of the potential trauma ahead of our own passing. And seeing how I generally go along with the 'not thinking about it' approach when you're battling a severe illness, especially in relation to younger adults, the best time to think about and plan for your death is when you feel in rude health.

There are the rather straightforward things such as: electing for either burial or cremation; the type of coffin you'd like (and perhaps where you'd like it purchased — there are other options than just relying on a costly undertaker to source it for you); the clothes you want on your dead body; how you'd like your funeral arranged, for example where you'd like your body to spend its last hours before burial/cremation, an open or closed coffin, etc.; and yes or no to your organs being donated.

Having arrangements made, in a legally binding way, for how any savings and/or assets you have are distributed is, to state the obvious, a very prudent move. If you have sufficient funds to pay for your own funeral, these should be made available to cover it as soon as is legally possible. If you're an expatriate, as is currently the case for me, expecting other family members to shoulder the cost of having your body repatriated isn't the nicest parting gift (I might be just left where I am!).

For the record, to put it publicly here — subject to future changes — I'll go for cremation (that was the result of a coin toss), a reasonably-priced wicker coffin (if people would like to see my dead body before it's disposed of, fair enough), my last night at my parental home, I'm easy on the clothes as long as they're mine, and if my organs after my death can be of use to other people, then go for them.

On the money front, whatever bits I have in accounts in Colombia, the Republic of Ireland and the UK, they should be used to pay for funeral costs. If there's anything left over (unlikely at this remove), distribute it among my parents and siblings (or siblings' children).

There you go. Of course I fully hope that the provisions in my 'death plan' change many times before it's actually needed, but putting off making one at all isn't best practice. Death is the one thing that awaits us all.
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