Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Be Prepared

My mother's death is already planned and paid for. Well, the part that comes after her death anyway. She made arrangements with a funeral home and also bought a plot next to my father's. Her name and birth year are already engraved on the headstone. I asked her once if it felt creepy to see that when she went out to the cemetery to put flowers on Dad's grave. With one eyebrow up, she said, "Why NO!" The thought had clearly never occurred to her.

The cemetery plot is right near a giant Elk statue. My dad joined the Elk's Club when I was a teenager. It housed one of the very few "good" restaurants in town and Dad worked with a couple of Elks members who recommended him. He went to a few meetings and then lost interest. He always paid his dues, though. And we went to their seafood buffet every month or two. When it came time to buy his plot, Mom learned that Elks members could buy discounted plots through the organization. Never one to turn down a bargain, she bought both plots from the Elks. This is why there's a giant Elk standing watch over my father's grave.

My mom -- usually pretty disorganized and unconcerned about others -- decided to pre-pay her funeral expenses right after she organized her own mother's funeral. It was a terrible experience for her. She's the oldest of my grandparents' children still living. Her younger siblings laid responsibilities on her and then criticized her for the way she carried them out. My dad was already dead by then, so she handled things pretty much alone. Out of that awful experience grew Mom's determination to help her own children avoid such pain.

She and Dad completed their wills many years ago and she has kept it updated. I think she's changed the executor once or twice. I'm sure it's never been me. I'm the youngest! It's currently my oldest sister. She was purposely not made executor when the will was initially drawn up. She'd made some choices -- including the choice of her first husband -- that my parents thought made her a bad risk as executor. Now she's more deserving of the honor, I guess. And, she lives closest to Mom.

Mom's careful planning of her passing is probably the most selfless, thoughtful thing she's ever done for us. And I truly appreciate it. I know I'll appreciate it even more when the time comes to carry out her wishes.

PSA: Please make sure your loved ones know what you want after you die. Make out a will. State your preferences as to funeral and what to do with your body. Please consider organ donation. But may you live to be 100. May we all.

1 comment:

frog said...

I might need an elk.