I'm saddened and shocked to learn about the sudden demise of an old friend's husband over the weekend. He died of a sudden heart attack leaving a wife and three young children. I cannot even begin to imagine what is going through the minds and hearts of these poor souls. On a separate incident, just last year we lost a very dear friend too, she died in her sleep with no obvious causes. She was only thirty one and recently engaged.
Death is inevitable and it's something we do not like to think about. Nobody likes to talk about death, especially in our Asian culture it's very 'pantang' (superstitious, bad omen) to talk about such things. Hence we have a tendency to be ill prepared when it happens. Anyway the recent occurrences, coupled with the multiple catastrophes happening worldwide (earthquakes, floods, fires) raised some crucial yet uncomfortable questions in my mind which I need to look into as well.
Here's what I'd like to call the mortality checklist, things to have ready and assured because really, death is inevitable. You may be young and have the best medical report in town and yet all it takes is a drunk bus driver or an aircraft engine malfunction to land you in front of the pearly gates.
- No, the first thing on my list is not an insurance-plan, but an afterlife-plan. I'm not here to propagate any particular religious faith but if you're unsure or you're wavering on the fence, choose a side and stick by it. If you really believe there is no after-life, fine but it won't hurt to think harder, I've heard so many stories of people at the brink of death calling out to a God but then they are not sure which one. It's kinda like knowing you need to call the helpline but you're not sure what's the number. And once you have a faith and are serious about it, let your family know who to contact to conduct the funeral in the manner you desire e.g. the number of your church elders or temple officials whatever.
- Here's where the insurance plan comes in. This is crucial especially if you have dependants on you, e.g. your family or your elderly parents etc. Ensure your next of kin knows who's your insurance agent and where your policies are kept.
- Ensure your EPF (retirement fund) nominations are up to date. The last you need are for the government to hang unto your money unnecessarily when there is great need for it.
- Audit and settle your debts while you can. Again, especially if you have dependants on you e.g. children etc so they will not be burden. Consider to insure your debts or any outstanding loans (car loans, house loans etc). Let your next of kin know where your documents are kept so they can make the necessary arrangements or liquidate your assets.
- Make a list of all your banking account passwords and pin numbers for your next of kin so in the event shit happens and they need money urgently or they need to manage standing orders, they are not left helpless and encumbered by troublesome paperwork. It's bad enough to deal with grief alone so why add on irksome formalities of official paperwork etc.
- Have a will done up, especially if you have alot of properties etc. Well, even if you don't have very much to bequeath and see no point to engage a will-writer (I'm not an expert in this subject, it's something I need to explore too), I guess it won't hurt to have a written instruction on how you want your affairs to be managed.
- Leave a legacy of good memories with your loved ones. It has been said many times that no one remembers all your career and worldly achievements but let those who matter remember you for the loving mother, father, son or daughter that you are. Spend quality time, take photos, send cards and write notes and letters on and off. When you are no longer around physically these are all that's left to be treasured by your loved ones. I'm considering investing in nice photo albums and scrapbooks.
- Decide to be an organ donor (or not, it's up to you). Have a written consent or give permission to your next of kin of your intention to donate your organs. You're not gonna need them anymore so why not give someone else a second chance.
- Audit your worldly possessions and junk periodically and donate away old clothes, books, toys, etc regularly. This way when shit happens your family won't have the arduous tasks of going through a mountain of junk and it allows you to be charitable yet prevent you from accumulating and hoarding nonsense. Also, please discard old hole-y and yucky undergarments; that's not how you want your spouse to remember you by (hahaha). You may also want to get rid of embarrassing diaries or mementos from your school years (double hahaha)
- Do your virtual presence audit. Let your spouse or next of kin know how you wish them to manage your Facebook, blogs, twitter etc. To close and terminate or otherwise. Let them have a copy of the passwords. Meanwhile close and delete any unnecessary online accounts (which reminds I need to delete my archaic and obsolete Friendster account).
- Consider a bereavement brief; our dear friend who passed on last year did something very impressive, she wrote a detailed instruction for her friends and family on how to manage her funeral if she passes on before them, right down to the funeral song, minister to preach and type of flowers and even where she wants her ashes to go. It may sound pretty morbid, but it's not a bad idea at all. So when the time comes, families don't have to fight and dispute on the nitty gritty decisions at such a crucial moment. I'm seriously considering this, there's something very poignant, poetic yet eerily beautiful about this. After all, it makes people around you feel good that they are able to fulfill and contribute to your last wishes to the letter. It's more for their sake that for the deceased.
- Meanwhile, do not wait for that special occasion to wear that gorgeous dress, precious necklace, expensive perfume etc ... that day may never come.
- And lastly, never forget to say I LOVE YOU always to people you care about. Say it always and throw in hugs and kisses with it.