Conversations seem to be happening more and more often around “Get your affairs in order … just in case” as fires, flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. cause devastation and people are faced with the seriousness and reality of their own mortality.

I encourage friends to not just speak about such things – or just think about them – but actually “get their affairs in order.” But, I find few do.

There are always excuses – verbal and unspoken … “I’m young. I’ve got lots of time.” … “My partner/husband/wife just won’t talk about this.” … “My kids will make the right decisions for me/us when the time comes.”

When serious illness is diagnosed, when someone unexpectedly dies, when weather horrors result in the destruction of home / business, the consequences of ‘not being prepared’ lead to even more stress.

Several years before my beloved Dutch-born husband Hans died, we not only tightened up our paperwork (aka “got our affairs in order” – updated our Wills and Representation Agreements), but each wrote what our wishes were (what we called our PWD – Personal Wish Document), if we were not able to die at home but had to be in institutional care or were permanently hospitalized.

Things like
— “If I can swallow, my favourite beverage is … ” (for me: Tim Horton’s Hot Chocolate; for Hans: Scotch <g>
— “If I can hear, see, I’d like certain personal things close by … ” (watch, eyeglasses, hearing aids, iPhone, pillow, blanket etc.)
“If I can read, I’d like my … “(iPad, reader, favourite book etc.)
“If I can hear, I’d like to hear music” (for me it’s musicals and semi-classical symphonies and baroque; for Hans it was organ music and Diana Krall)
“If I can watch tv, I’d like to watch … “(for Hans it was “How It’s Made” and the history channel; for me it’s musicals and British comedy)
“If I can eat, I’d love a treat of … ” (for both of us it was milk chocolate).

Even though Hans couldn’t swallow, I put a drop of Scotch on his tongue and he could taste it. Same thing with the smallest amount of milk chocolate. And, he watched “How It’s Made.” Well, the tv was tuned to that channel. I’m not sure he was aware it was on that channel, but who knows. Scientists say that the last sense to leave us is our hearing, so maybe he was hearing it.

I would add something else … record your voice. Oh, how I wish I had thought of, and done, this one. I have lots of photos of Hans, but no record of his voice and I would love to hear his sweet voice.

Hans and I believed that death was a part of life and neither of us had a fear of death. It was the dying part that we weren’t thrilled about. But doing the above gave us a sense of control over that part of life’s journey.

Loss of control is something that happens towards the end of our lives. It can happen in small ways – and in large ways. But, having such a PWD (Personal Wish Document) along with updated Wills and Representation Agreements CAN help.

Death is not a pleasant subject. However, the reality is – death is going to happen some day to everyone we love – and to ourselves.

When we die, our loved ones will experience a variety of emotions. Underneath it all, is stress. Profound, gut-wrenching, deep stress.

But, there are things we can do before our life’s journey ends – some things we can do to make our death less stressful for those we love. “Get things in order.” Now. Not next month. Not next year. Earlier than later … “get things in order.”

© June Maffin