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This is the seventh in a series of eleven articles to educate and prepare ahead of time for loved ones or self for the end of life - It is intended to bring awareness to the possible scenarios and encouragement to make plans ahead of time to avoid the stress and emotional discomfort and possible inability to make those better decisions - Comments are welcomed and will be available for viewing upon approval
How To Die Like A Doctor Part 2 By Carolyn McClanahan
In my last post, I discussed three phases for preparing to die like a doctor – pre-illness, illness, and “too late to do anything about the illness” phase. I covered a little about the pre-illness preparation – feeling comfortable with the concept of death and ways to get experience with sickness and dying without going through the process yourself. In this post, I cover another important pre-illness item – preparing your family for your death long before it is imminent.
There are two ways you need to prepare your family – financially and emotionally. The financial one is easy – if you die, will your family be okay financially without you? Hopefully you have enough savings to keep them intact, but most people in their younger years need some type of life insurance.
Although I am a financial planner, my purpose in writing is not to explain the intricacies of how much or what type of life insurance you need – find a good financial planner to help you out with that one.
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So how does this help you die like a doctor? I had a client who once experienced a near drowning. As she was going under, her last thought was, “I’m so glad we did our financial planning. My family is going to be okay.” She lived through the episode, and brought tears to my eyes recounting the story.
Although I sometimes miss saving lives as a doctor, it is very rewarding to know good financial planning gives people great peace in end of life situations.
The next step is to prepare your family emotionally. It is so much easier to do this when everyone is healthy. Talk about how you want to be taken care of, what type of funeral you want, and how you want people to celebrate your life. Write it all down or do a video. It may sound morbid, but try to make it fun.
Just because death is a scary unknown doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a sense of humor about it. Although we didn’t talk about death in my family in the pre-illness phase, when my mom was in her final days from cancer, she raised her legs high in the air and said, “My legs are finally as skinny as Carolyn’s.” I’m grateful I inherited her sense of humor in this regard.
Another good tool is an “ethical will.” This is a non-legal document in which you share your history, dreams, and values with your family. It can really be anything you want – some like to explain the mechanics of their legacy, share funny stories, make amends. It doesn’t matter – a document from the heart is one that will be cherished forever.
Share the “big picture” of your funeral. I want my family and friends to have a big party and tell funny stories about my life. Have me cremated, throw me off the pier at Jorge’s house, and get on with your life.
If you have the energy, fill out a copy of “Five Wishes” to get into greater detail. Having your arrangements out of the way and leaving good memories behind is a wonderful way to die.
This takes a little time, and doesn’t have to be done all at once. But please do it. In all honesty, I have a hard time getting doctors to go this far, so if you do, you’ll die much better than a doctor.
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