Saturday, June 13, 2009

Tip No. Two: Communicate

You know, I really don't want to talk to Mother about her impending death and what she wants at her funeral. I really don't want to have her tell me what life insurance policies she has and where the will is and what outfit she'd like to be buried in and what little trinkets that aren't covered in the will should be given to what relative. I don't want to talk about any of that stuff. But, I need to. And she needs to talk to me. Otherwise, I risk a lot: I risk not being able to carry out her wishes and not being able to give her the funeral she envisioned and wants. I may not be able to adequately deal with all her financial and business affairs correctly. But who wants to talk about that stuff with their family member?

To Mother's credit, she's tried to initiate the conversation a few times. I blew her off each time. For two main reasons: given that there is a mild distrust that does exist and runs both ways, I didn't want to seem overly anxious for her demise. I was afraid if I came over to have The Talk with her, she'd take it as a sign that I was after the estate. I didn't trust her enough to be sure that she wasn't using The Talk as a test to see if that's what I was doing. But, despite our strains, she had always been a part of my life, and I really wasn't particularly anxious to imagine that changing. Now, of course, I've put myself in a situation that's pretty interesting. She's fairly incoherent a lot of the time and given her circumstances, she's sure to take any attempt at talking about final arrangements as a sign that I'm wanting to hurry that process up. So, I should have the conversation fifteen years ago. The perfect time to have had it was when Dad died, it would have been a natural conversation to have in light of what we were dealing with. As a matter of fact, I could have made it a "we'll talk about both of our wishes." But of course I didn't do that because I knew she would violently oppose what I wanted for myself (which is cremation) and there was enough sorrow and chaos to keep us distracted. Probably a better idea would have been a few months later, but it didn't happen then, so no reason to dwell on that now.

Dad did it the right way. His military manner carried through to the very end. Actually, the fact that he lived in the same house as a colossal hoarder was pretty interesting, but you definitely knew what areas of the house were his. It was like entering another planet. The garage and the study were his domains, and everything had a place and was in its place. Therefore, it was no surprise that he had everything pulled together in a rigid, efficient manner, and he toured both Mother and I separately through his paperwork, making sure we knew what policies he had in place and where the documentation for each was.

Mother, as I mentioned, tried to follow suit a few times, but zebras have their stripes, and I can tell you when I packed her up, there was no one central location where all the pertinent documents were located. Hence my suggestion that lists be kept and you know what you've got. But, it's also knowing what Mother wants at her funeral. I know some of it from what she insisted for Dad and from listening to her comments about other funerals, but I don't what Bible verses she wants read, what hymns, things like that. One could make the argument that it won't matter, she won't be around for that part, but that's not how I want to be. Despite my own personal feelings about open caskets, I'll respect that wish. I should, along that vein, make sure she gets the send off she wants, but now it's a delicate balance to figure out how to find that information out.

So, bottom line, talk about all of this with your own parents now, before it's impending and talk about your own wishes with your own family now - because, life is uncertain, which is why Amy's wants you to eat dessert first.


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