Saturday, 6 January 2018

Let's Talk About Death


Yesterday I was sat in the car waiting for the Prof to arrive at the station on the 17.59 from Bangor.
Eddie Mair, was, as usual, being all clever on Radio 4 and his subject du jour was this time about death.
Well it was more about how we prepare for death, especially in this tight arsed, head-in-the-sand modern day world where death is not viewed as a part of life and living but seen as a something that happens external to our battle with love, shit and the universe.
Mair's debate was an interesting one. "Experts" extolled the virtues of discussing your death with your loved ones "over a glass of wine" where the subject of living wills, power or attorney, financial considerations, burial details and legacies.
It wasn't rocket science, but it was common sense.
One commentator pitched it just right.
"Discussions like these are best done in a more detached and abstract way well before the fact and should not have to be faced in the high emotion of hospital admissions and nursing home waiting rooms."
Having autonomy at the end of your life is paramount. Instructing a legal advocate who perhaps can act in your interest rather than a medic who may act in "best interest" is becoming more popular nowadays but often that "chat over a glass of wine" may be more beneficial, especially when family is involved.
Nothing can split a family more than a death of a loved one

60 comments:

  1. Death is now seen mostly as 'expense', and how one copes with it. Burials (we are told) now cost £7,000; so beware. Unless you subscribe to Burials-R-Us, you'll be on Skid Row!

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  2. As a matter of urgency I think you should have that death chat with The Prof. You never know when a meteor might strike your house.

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  3. Ooh, I like Eddy Mair. So measured, so calm, so human, such a wonderful voice and, I imagine, a wonderful person. Some people fall in love on sight, I fall in love on sound.

    One of the, to me, worst parts of my death is that I won't be in charge of the funeral. I am sure my son will make a great job of it but I'd really like to spare him the burden. And the paperwork. And,anyway, as you say, how do I broach the subject with him NOW? It appears no one wants to know about your demise until it's too late.

    One thing I want to make dead sure of, but how, that I won't be "done" - you know, drained of all my bodily fluids to be replaced with some shit formaldehyde and crap, combed and beautified. I want, unadulterated, no coffin, just clad in a shroud, be (gently) lowered into a six foot hole, with all who can be arsed to attend putting a shovel of earth on top of me - till the hole is full. What else they do is up to them. Like, say, crying. Unfortunately I won't be able to put my arms round any of them, comforting them in their hour of need. There, there ...

    U

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    1. You can arrange your funeral and service just as you want. Both parents did. Pre paid and clear instructions down to the hymns at the service. I have already done much of the same with a little to go. Or through your funeral while you are still alive... should be an interesting party.

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    2. Correction: throw

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    3. Holding my funeral party in advance of the actual event is an excellent idea, Millicent.

      Mind you, considering the current state of play among my siblings and other parties who normally avoid attending the same event, there will be several funerals to be arranged at the end of it. Oh, the fun of it. I can see now who is at whose throat. My mother providing the sound track (waterfalls of tears and pleading for world peace). My father, possibly just for once in his life, drowned out by the rest of the chorus. Myself, being the projected dead, shall preside at the top of the table, smiling serenely, make the odd astute, often snide observation but largely think my own thoughts. It'll be lovely.

      U

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  4. Death is talked about very matter of factly in the rural community I live in if my family are anything to go by.

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    1. Same here Rachel; we all talked about it and discussed our wishes, then bought a family plot on the first death so there is space for the rest of us when our time comes. It was a very matter of fact discussion which suited us but perhaps not all people.

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  5. I worked in probate, many years ago and saw first hand what transpires when final arrangements for death haven't been made....not pleasant.

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  6. Husband wouldn't talk about his wishes until the other day when he came home from the funeral of a friend. He now thinks he ought to choose the music.

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  7. We regularly discuss death over a glass of wine in this house, usually whilst listening to the radio. I really don't need Joan Bakewll rubbing it in ad infinitum. I think death is discussed a lot more than life these days, even in fiction drama. Where would TV and film be without death as a constantly recurring theme?

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  8. I would recommend reading Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. My dad read it six weeks before he died and it helped guide him in his end of life decisions.

    Julie

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  9. I have everything in place, all written down and notarized, and hopefully, my wishes will be followed. That is not always the case but there is nothing that I can do about it. Funerals are for the living to help them get through the sorrow, dead is dead.

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  10. Death is a transition from one state of being to another... finis.

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  11. Death is a transition from one state of being to another... finis.

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    1. Yes but some transitions can be bloody awkward

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  12. I have everything sorted but I did buy a notebook and added my passwords etc just to make it easier for my daughter. My grandfather who was very practical, wrote his will on a piece of paper conveyed everything we needed to know in ten sentences. We talked about it before hand. My only comment to him" Did you have to use turquoise paper." It sailed through probate.

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    1. Probate can be an absolute nightmare

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  13. Both of us will be collected by the university for research. Doctor informed and family. Done.

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    1. My mother in law, who passed away last month, chose this option and it was wonderful, like a gift from her to us. Easy, inexpensive, no details to be attended to by the grieving children, not to mention the value for the medical university. I highly recommend it.

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    2. I would like to disagree , my father ‘left his body to medical science ‘ ,after his death ( Eastertime), my Mum found it very difficult getting hold of the medical university involved and when she did they were not helpful. They eventually collected him from the funeral home , but when my Mum rang the following day they couldn’t find any record of receiving my fathers body....my poor Mum had a dreadful 48 hours not knowing where he was ; he was eventually ‘found’ with no explanation of what had happened.
      After 6 months my Mum had a phone call out of the blue saying they ‘finished’ with his body and did she solely want his remains back or ‘ a mixture ‘! We were horrified by the whole experience. My Mum had also signed up at the same time as my Dad, but she changed her mind after such a distressing experience. I appreciate this is an isolated example , but
      does make you think .

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    3. Hopefully things are smoother now....it did bode well did it

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    4. Shelly, I'm so sorry for the anxiety and grief your Mum and you had to deal with. When my 91 year old father died about 10 years ago, the whole hospital experience was horrible, and I was pressured to donate my father's eyes for research purposes. Not to help someone else, because he was so old, but to accommodate medical students with some "specimens" for them to study. I'm sorry to say this, but my daughter and I both regretted doing this...the eyes are the window to the soul, not a specimen to be carved up. I know that he was gone, but I still feel odd about the donation. I hope we can all recognize that organ donation is a more complicated experience than we sometimes acknowledge.

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  14. I have talked about death quite frankly. I don't want a funeral but a simple scattering of my ashes with all those who loved me present. I think the funeral companies use the term 'Direct Disposal' as a way of putting people off. It kind of sounds as though you are simply disposing of your loved one.. It costs around £1000.

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    1. I want to go in a cardboard box or wicker basket

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  15. Age UK have produced a free 'Life Book' where you can make a note of what type of burial arrangements you would like. In addition there is space to make notes on every aspect of your life such as where you will is kept, any property that needs special disposal, which utility companies you use, how many bank accounts, etc. tomake it easier for the ones who have to deal with your estate. There is also room to leave a final message.

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    1. Yes there is also a video (5thanks Joni)
      Making your DEATH PLAN! - YouTube

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  16. My siblings and I are starting to have these conversations with Ma and Pa.....and starting to think about things like power of attorney etc., but it is an assumption that they will die before us...and who knows about that....time for us to make our thoughts known to each other I suppose.

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  17. I believe my mother suffered longer, due to a lack of having "the conversation" with all of her kids. My father had an easier death as a result of him being able to tell us what he wanted until the last three or four days.

    I finished a research project this last year on how doctors deal with intra-family conflict on end of life care decisions. Interesting stuff.

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    1. A sad but interesting point. I have seem many dying people linger because so many things in their life were not sorted, including waiting for a relative to visit

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  18. I can't bear watching those funeral adverts, ones about Stenna stair lifts, Wiltshire foods or mobility scooters so, I'm not having discussions about death ... well, not yet anyway. XXXX

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  19. My most pragmatic daughter is pushing for just this sort of conversation and I love her for it. We do need to do it. One of the problems with trying to prepare for old age and the disabilities which may well come is that we don't know what sort of disabilities there will be- will we lose our mind or our legs? You know, that sort of thing. It's so easy just to let it all happen. Or so it seems. It's really not.

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    1. Ms Moon, your comment resonates with me.

      I am not sure I am the "most pragmatic daughter" of my parents' four children but I sure am the one pushing for some sort of "plan" (they are in their early/mid Eighties respectively, fit as fiddles). Whilst they will talk about dying and death in the abstract and most freely, trying to nail them to the practical part of their demises appears impossible. I guess they take the view that once they are dead it doesn't matter what we do with them. Though dare say my mother will rise from the dead should I be unavoidably detained (I live abroad) and not able to attend her funeral.

      U

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  20. My husband died ten years ago. We had talked about death and made those documents way before he was ill. It helped so much in that terrible time because I knew what he wanted. I think we had those discussions because his oldest sister was a social worker, working with the elderly at the time, and she told us how important is was. I don't think we would have thought to do this without her. My children know what I want. This is very important and I'm glad you posted about the topic.

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    1. As usual it's the comments which hold the power on this subject

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  21. A timely post, as I now assisting with my dear sister's funeral to be held in a few days. This is the second sibling I have lost in the last few years, and both were in their 50's. My brother died in his sleep, with no will, estranged from his wife. His son did a wonderful job with the funeral, but the paperwork after was a nightmare. My sister was a nurse, retired for only a short time, but got cancer last year. She had more time to prepare and at least had a will, but I am finding that there seemed to be things that she left to chance. Like her last wishes, and things like a do not resuscitate order. After my husband had a serious accident over a decade ago, we redid our wills, set up power of attorney's , and a medical power of attorney, with our wishes communicated to our executor. After spending the last week at a bedside vigil for my sister, I am running on empty, trying to help my brother in law with her funeral...now is not the time to have to make a million decisions. Try to plan ahead- we all die in the end, so don't leave your family to try and cope with it all...
    Barb

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    1. Barb. My condolences and my best wishes xx

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    2. Thank you, John.

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  22. The three of us talk honestly and openly about the fact that life does not go on forever. We have arranged our burial plot and funeral home and have prepaid it. We have informed our daughter of how we want things done. Since nowadays you can't just dig a hole and roll someone into it you know.
    We keep our affairs up to date and tied up tight, she knows what to expect. That looked after, we now just go about life and enjoy what is left to us.

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  23. We are all over this. My parents, more specifically my father had it all well thought out and he passed that on to me. Thanks, Dad!

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    1. I think I will organise everything within a Knats crotchet

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  24. Work out all details and honor as many as you can. One of mother's included "No announcement in the paper." I still remember my uncle holding her lifeless hand and saying "She didn't tell me your father died, you know; we were on vacation and she didn't want to bother us." I knew my mother, and I knew how sad that omission was to my uncle. We put a little obituary in the paper. More than two hundred people came to say good-bye, at the funeral home and at the graveside, in heavy snow. I think they followed her to the end to watch the service in sign language, at her favorite pastor's side. It was like fairies floating. A wonderful good bye to a good friend.

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    1. Very moving Joanne thank you

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  25. Some of the hardest things I had to do was talk to my Dad about his wishes when we found out he only had a few weeks to live. Asking about the type of coffin, his funeral and asking him to sign a do not resuscitate form were the hardest things I ever did. The only thing that helped was my father's matter of fact view of it, I'm sure he probably felt sorry for me as well. You want to have this taken care of legally as well so you don't run into trouble if a loved one develops some form of dementia.

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    1. I suspect your family and your father appreciated your candour

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  26. I'm set, but DH hasn't set it in stone yet and I worry his family may upset my apple cart.

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  27. My mom bought her cemetery plot last week, she's very on top of things. Probably because her husband died five years ago with nothing at all sorted. His family caused so much ruckus,, bless their little golden hearts...

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  28. Reading this post and the comments makes me so very sad. Not because of the subject but because so many people obviously accept what my partner refuses. He will not make a will or talk about it. I have gleaned that he wants to be buried (but not where)...

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    1. I know...I shall post a happier one a bit later

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  29. My husband died as a result of a doctors mistake
    His will was neat and tidy and to the point.
    Everything we / he did was in both of our names.
    No waiting for probate etc
    What was his was mine.
    He was cremated per his wishes.
    Even in death he always watched out for me and took care of me.

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    1. You two were an ideal item candice x

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  30. It is amazing that people put off these discussions and details until it is too late. I have been thinking about my funeral since I was a child! A morbid little child. When my Grandmother died we had no idea that she had arranged her entire service. What a relief for my mom. Now I am trying to get my 80 year old parents to get their house in order and they are quite reluctant. My family is irritatingly superstitious about it. They think that if they make their will, they will drop dead.

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  31. G and I discussed it all, I typed out my wishes, and filed it all with the Account numbers in a folder. The kids know where everything is.
    My stepfather never buried my mother, and we still would like to know where he put her. After cremation, my eldest daughter thinks she got thrown off the stern of the boat, and my youngest thinks she was put in the trash. I'm over being pissed.

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    1. Oh Mage, what a touching comment. Of course we all know that your mother's spirit or soul or whatever was already in some other place, but I love your daughters' response. Show some respect. As I have no plans and no money, I trust my children to find an ecological way to say goodbye to my earthly remains--maybe a good drunken wake, but the rest is immaterial. I'm glad you're over being pissed--an understandable reaction, but a waste of energy.

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  32. My parents each had their funerals planned out exactly, which made things a whole lot easier for us kids.

    My partner changes his mind every time we have "the discussion" on whether or not he wants cremation or burial. But at least I, and his sisters know his choices in funeral music.
    As for me, I have made my wishes known very clearly to my partner, son and sisters: no funeral, just burial in a cardboard or wicker coffin. If they wish to have a wake or not, I don't care. I'd rather they do it while I'm still alive though!

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  33. For me, it's important to distinguish between preferences for our end of life and those for disposal of the body. I will certainly dictate how I want to spend the final days/months/years (please, god, NO), and I trust my family to follow my wishes. But as for after-death arrangements, it's up to them. The funeral is for the survivors. I hope they won't spend much money on it, and I certainly don't want them arguing about it, but I won't be around to witness it. Same goes for the jewelry.

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