Sunday, February 21, 2016

Planning for the future

.. the only thing you can be absolutely sure of, death.

I know, morbid. But avoiding being morbid will not make a damn bit of difference to the outcome. It is so much more sensible, and considerate of those who will be left behind, to deal with the details well in advance.  Mind you, who is to say how far in advance you are actually planning? My point is, take care of everything while you have all your faculties.

What if you ...
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
 - Dylan Thomas 1914 - 1953
What if you descend into dementia, or wind up in a coma?

Things to think about:
  1. Last Will & Testament - most especially if you have children (who do you want to care for them?)
  2. Financial Power of Attorney - so that your next of kin can access your funds and handle your financial matters.
  3. Medical Power of Attorney - so that your next of kin can make medical decisions on your behalf, and be kept informed of all your medical details, otherwise the medical confidentiality law could prevent this.
  4. Living Will - do you want to be kept alive under any circumstances, or have the plug pulled when you are clearly not going to recover and your next of kin cannot make those decisions for you.
  5. Long Term Care Insurance - the sooner you get this, the cheaper it is, and if you leave it too long you just might not qualify - if you show any signs of cognitive impairment, you will be refused. 
  6. Named Beneficiaries for all of your assets - this avoids the long and costly probate procedure.
  7. Life Insurance of course - everyone knows that.
  8. And finally - most finally - funeral arrangements.
And naturally, do make sure your next of kin are aware of your wishes and plans and where to find the documents when the time comes - because we all know, it will come.

My husband and I had taken care of 1 - 7 some time ago, # 8 was delayed but finally got around to it this week. It wasn't that we didn't want to do it, it wasn't that we were procrastinating. We actually made one failed attempt a number of years ago - failed because the 'gentleman' we met with at our local funeral parlor was not only a total gouger, he was also extremely obnoxious - I did not want my children to have to deal with such a creature while also dealing with grief. He tried to convince us that the average cost was 300% greater than we already knew it to be (my husband is very frugal and always does detailed research before buying anything). As we walked out he followed us bringing the price down with every step.

We finally did get around to it. I took the day off work and we met up with an extremely nice lady at Austin Cremations. I feel very comfortable letting her deal with my children when the time comes, I know she will take good care of them.

Because what we were actually paying for was Funeral Insurance, we had to go through the legal rigmarole of signing a contract. We paid in full for a cremation, one for each of us, and also added extra to cover the cost of the large number of death certificates that are required to make many of the items in the list above useful. The time it took to go through this process for each of us, allowed us to peruse the 'goodies' on display. Jewelry and art that can either hold ashes or fingerprints of the dearly departed. See below for photos.

Obviously the jewelry and what my husband irreverently referred to as salt-shakers, only hold a very small portion of the ashes. The large traditional urns and the interesting books which turned out to be a container for ashes, apparently hold what is left after the fire and the grinder. Yes, I looked it up, after a body is cremated, the chunks of bone are ground up and that is what you get in your urn.

If cremation sounds a bit gory to you, surely being buried in the ground to rot and be devoured by insects is no less so? Plus cremation is cheaper, and on balance, I believe it is more Eco friendly.

Austin Cremations worked perfectly for our needs. We do not want any funeral ceremony or services, we want the absolute least fuss. just whip the body away, turn it into ashes and let that be the end. My husband wants his ashes to go into the ocean, the gulf will do fine, the tides will keep him moving in the element he loves most. Personally, I really do not care. I want them not to mourn my passing but celebrate my life!

I would love to think that my ashes could be scattered on some site relevant to my love of the history of the West. The Alamo, or some of the most beautiful place on earth - Sedona Valley in Arizona, Zion Park in Utah. But ultimately, I want my children to have no extra expense, and the minimum of grief. I wasn't sure about the legality of such a thing so I asked Google, and amazingly, it is possible to scatter ashes in National Parks under Federal Jurisdiction.

Naturally there are rules and regulations but it is possible! That includes Yosemite, Zion, Bryce Canyon, The Grand Canyon. Who would have thought?  Here is a link to National Park Service Search Results for ashes.

Here is a wiki on cremation

and some articles on End of Life Planning:

New York Times
National Hospice & Palliative Care Org


Jewelry and table decorations

mini urns - for sharing. What Larry referred to as salt shakers

assorted urns