For those who know me personally, I am not in any danger of immediate death any more than anyone with no serious illness. I am of course, getting deeper in years and so the possibility – dare I say the likelihood? – of death becomes more real.
What prompts this reflection was a call from a friend about two weeks ago. Coming up on a year ago I went to an attorney’s office to talk about making a will. We spent an hour together, and he made a recommendation about my naming a beneficiary for my IRA (so as to avoid probate), and suggested I name a health care proxy and appoint someone with power of attorney. And I was supposed to return to fill in the blanks on the will. I have not been back – so strong and capable is my ability to drag my feet. I did however speak to two friends about filling those two roles, and they accepted. And we never had any further conversation about the matter. Until, that is, one of those friends called and proposed she wanted to sit down and talk with me about my wishes – in the event I get run over by a car while crossing the street. When I told the other friend about this communique she commented that everyone should have such a friend. It turns out we all need to be pushed, if not dragged, kicking and screaming…
I’m sharing this experience because I suspect I am not the only one skilled in foot dragging. There are several documents which you should obtain and complete – then share and store. The first is the Health Care Proxy. On this form you name an individual (and alternate if you wish) who will speak in your behalf around health care matters should you be incapacitated in any way. You can Google your state’s proxy – be sure to select the site supported by the state where such a download is free, and not some other site that will be happy to help you fill out a form and then ask for your credit card information so they can charge you. I also searched out a Power of Attorney form on line – and selected a financial power of attorney. This I did pay for (about $20). I am certain this would have been part of the package of work with the attorney for my will had I returned; I will return but that is probably more than a month out so I opted to pay for it in order to arrange affairs now. Another form that is REALLY helpful, and the one more than the others that makes thinking about death hard, is a Five Wishes form. This is a form that spells out in detail how you would like to be treated in the event of serious, incapacitating illness, or end of life circumstance. It can be ordered on line for $5 – which I did, and then found that very document in my doctor’s office when I visited earlier this week. I took the free one and will be passing along the one I got in the mail to someone else, encouraging that person to complete it.
It seems to me that it is hard to think about death when it seems not to be a present reality. I wonder if it’s any easier when death is knocking at the door. Only time will tell. All of these thoughts are of course wrapped up in the whole process of growing older. As a single person I am recognizing that I need to start compiling lists: of surgeries, medications, doctors, not to mention financial institutions and accounts. Probably as either parent or spouse, this would be a good thing for others to do as well. Our memories are likely to grow less acute, and our in- or dis- abilities, more so.
Until we all head home again however, we are invited to embrace all of life as it presents itself: rich, intricate, amazing, meaningful, and beautiful. And we can be confident that the world will go on when we do, and we will leave behind our place in the family of things.
Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.