This is to all parents, but especially to adoptive parents due to the fact that some (perhaps many) start parenting later in life. My hope is that you will consider ensuring that you make the time after you pass for your children as easy as mom and dad have made mine as the one to make sure their collective last wishes are met.
Having end-of-life conversations, while hard, allow the ones left to go through the process easier.
Over the years, we had several end-of-life conversations. They each had a final end of life conversation with me, when they knew their time was growing very short. I knew what their wishes were for the end. It helped, not just with the after but in knowing they were ready and at peace with what would happen. It made it easier for me. Being able to follow their wishes made it easier. It also made the process less painful, the mourning less protracted.
Having a list of those to let know after, would have made it easier even though I knew all those who needed to be informed.
Having to call and speak to everyone near and dear to mom was emotionally draining. Thankfully, I knew who to call, it would have been easier if I’d had a list, but in my case it was okay. I would suggest that be part of your process — who you want notified when you pass, a living document you can add or remove from periodically. Making those phone calls was hard having to retell the events that had unfolded just a few hours before.
Having mom’s wishes arranged, documented, and discussed ahead of time prevented further challenges in an already challenging time.
Dad passed a few years ago. Mom made the arrangements based on what he’d requested. What I found out after, is that mom made and paid for her own arrangements, every single aspect of what she wanted done when she died was detailed and coordinated with the proper entities. All that would be left to me to do was the memorial service, and the obituary, and even then, she’d stated what the memorial could be, and what it couldn’t be. I can’t begin to tell you how much mom doing that lifted an immense emotional burden from me. Not only that, it allowed me to know I was respecting her last wishes, and that gave me that power to limit what others wanted, in the name of respecting mom. It also stopped me second-guessing if my choices were what mom would have wanted.
Not having any questions about their estate left unanswered, helped: I can’t stress that enough.
Dad was open with me about how they had structured their estate. Dad started talking to me about it somewhere in my tween/teen years. Knowing how their estate would be divided, who would do what, who to turn to, what was important, and why they decided as they did, has given me the strength and peace of mind in going through the process. It has given me knowledge to answer questions as they came up. It guided me in everything I had to do, and will have to do.
Having multiple conversations throughout the years showing both mom’s and dad’s unwavering convictions about their estate helped me immensely knowing what they wanted stood the test of time. We even talked about if friends or family were upset with the decisions they made. So many different conversations over a life-time have allowed me to go through this process with grace, knowing I was following their wishes and speaking their words told to me for just that purpose. It has made a hard time, easier.
Plan for the time immediately after you pass: How will your bills be paid? Where are documents stored? Who has keys and passwords?
For the last several years I’ve helped mom with the paperwork. She started off needing help understanding the legalese type documents, and having someone to discuss decisions with, which over time, morphed into pretty much doing most of the paperwork.
Power of attorney had been put into place, so at the end when she couldn’t do anything, that helped. What would have been better is being a signatory to the bank account bills were paid out of, as power of attorney ceases at death, and there is a transitory time after when bills are still coming in and auto debits coming out. I waited too long to start using the POA, or asking more questions about what would happen at the end, because, I didn’t want her to feel her independence was being taken away. Handing over the reigns would be easier than having to take them. The transition would have been easier if I’d been listed as a signatory all along in addition to the POA.
If you have your will in your safe deposit box, make sure your executor has the right to access the box.
And, while electronics and social media accounts aren’t part of what I had to deal with, remember that in today’s world, passwords need to be known by the person you trust to do what needs doing. That person needs to be able to get into your computer, shut down social media accounts. Put this into your plan.
I don’t believe anyone you are close to is truly gone; sometimes they just aren’t physically present anymore.
Another preparation mom and dad unknowingly took, just by being who they were, was talking about death as a normal part of life. That how and when you died made a difference, whether it was a terribly sad tragedy, all the way to when it is a blessing. I don’t remember the first time someone dying was talked about. I know my grandpa passed about the age I went to Kindergarten, so that was probably the first time. I do know that talking about people passing away was treated as part of life and done in our presence and openly discussed seeing as dad was a doctor. I also want to state that I do not remember ever worrying they would die as some children do, whether those conversations helped I can’t say, but they didn’t cause those fears in me.
I’d be remiss if I also didn’t speak about how people in your life also impact your day-to-day life. How your mom and dad shape the very foundations of your moral compass, not just in teaching you right from wrong, but how they lived their lives teaches you how to make choices, where your line in the sand is. Every decision you make, big or small, you do it because of what you learned from them. They are still part of you.
I also learned early that the retelling of stories about them kept their memories alive. When you think about it, every relationship we have is a series of memories, of events you shared. Telling stories after people pass reminds you they are still part of you, no matter what. You are shaped by who shared your journey thus far. Telling family stories matter, even about those long passed. The stories help shape each person who continues to pass each story down to the next generation, until it is passed down to the one who played a role in shaping you into who you are.
Leaving your affairs without a clearly delineated path to resolution is not the legacy you want to leave your children burdened with – having to make those decisions. Having many small conversations, helps with what happens after death – how they view your passing, mourn their loss, live their lives. Viewing death as part of life helped me.