Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Mortality Check

My recent experience with the unexpected death of my Uncle Jim inspired me to put the finishing touches on something I’ve been working on for months. While Greg and I both created legal wills, living wills, powers of attorney, etc. after we got married in 2011, neither of us have explicit instructions as to what to do in the event of either of our deaths. Considering that we both want to be cremated, and both have different and somewhat nontraditional views on how we want things to be handled, I realized how important it is to have all of that in writing now, versus leaving it to a distraught family member to sort out in the event of an untimely death.

Thus I have spent the past couple of weeks slowly plugging away at the details in my “End of Life Instructions” document. Essentially, I wrote my own funeral service, although that’s the furthest thing from what it actually is. Instead, the document spells out how to go about donating my body to science, what to do with my ashes once I’m cremated, who to notify, how to conduct a celebration of life event, etc. I even wrote my own obituary.

Which leads me to an interesting thought. Originally, the title of this post was “Crowdsourcing My Funeral.” But not only is that overly morbid, it gives the wrong impression as to what I’m actually trying to convey. Instead, as I was working on my end of life wishes, it struck me that what I want most is for anyone who has been a part of my life to share their favorite memory of their time spent with me, or perhaps how I inspired them to travel, take more risks, or just embrace the possibility of making a change for the better. Then I realized how sad it would be to have all of these people share these things on my Facebook page, or at my Celebration of Life event, after I was gone, especially if they hadn’t told me the impact I had on their life while I was alive. Please let this be a reminder to thank the people that have made a difference in your life now, whether with a quick phone call, text, email, handwritten letter, or even a Facebook post. Not only will it brighten their day, it might be the cue they need to take a similar action themselves.

Now that I have completed these documents, the next step is to review everything with Greg, to make sure he understands my wishes and is comfortable with what he must do to see them through; have everything notarized; and then, when I’m in Tennessee in October, I will share the information with my father and mother, as it will be up to them to take the necessary actions in the event that Greg and I both die at the same time.

I guess, in the end, this blog post is my version of a public service announcement (PSA) to remind you to take the time to not only think about how you would want things handled in the event of your death, but to also put it all in writing. Please don’t let that burden fall on your loved ones that would have to make permanent decisions in a time of tremendous grief.

Here are some helpful links to get you started:


  1. Interesting timing as just a couple weeks ago my husband forwarded me this article, which was actually written a few years ago about the differences between doctors and most of the rest of us when it comes to making end of life decisions. In case you're interested:
    Finally, thank you for this post. I'll be forwarding it to him and then hopefully take the steps you have to ensure both my wishes are followed and that my family is not burdened with decisions about what to do.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing that article, Kris. I just read it in its entirety and it touches on many important subjects. As someone who worked in emergency services for several years, I know what it's like to perform CPR, the horrible feel and sound of breaking someone's ribs, and the myriad ways that a life can end. While that would never deter me from helping someone in need, I draw the line when it comes to my own life. I also know too many friends and family members who have had to deal with an unexpected and/or tragic death. I hope this post encourages all my readers to take control of the situation now versus when they have fewer options.

  2. Very thoughtful and generous of you to take the time to share. And timely too, as this is right at the top of my list of "to-do's", and will be working on it all in the next few weeks. Thanks so much for the post!