About Death and Dying
When you talk about someone who has died do you use words like “passed away” or “at peace” as if somehow a gentler phrase will change the reality? Lots of people do, and who can blame them? Most of us have a strong aversion to facing our own mortality, or facing the loss of someone we love.
My friend died a couple of weeks ago. He was home alone Saturday morning, doing mundane weekend things like laundry and housework. His shirts were hanging to dry from the bedroom doorway. His breakfast dishes were in the sink. A full cup of coffee sat on the counter.
He didn’t suffer, we learned from the autopsy report. He was felled by a stroke, and had a heart that was about three times the size it should have been. He wasn’t on any medication, worked out with a trainer once a week, and we presume that he had no idea there was a deadly bomb ready to detonate inside of him, just two weeks short of his 50th birthday.
After he died, things got complicated. Not only did he die without a will, but he died with all his digital passwords tucked safely inside of his head.
He’d been divorced for years and was still in touch with his ex-wife, but she didn’t know the master password to his list or the code to unlock his phone or computer. His best friend didn’t know them either. There was no paper mail that could help track down his bank account, car loan payment, or…anything.
Add the grief and shock to what his mom – who became his executor – was dealing with, and I’m sure you can imagine how hard all of this is.
I hope you’ll think of this article as a helpful suggestion, and a none too gentle poke in the arm to get your own affairs in order. We tend to be very protective of things like passwords and pay a lot of attention to digital security (at least in my group of friends) and so our focus is normally on locking people out, but at some point, we die…and we need to let someone in. After all, someone will have to share copies of the death certificate, see a lawyer for probate, close bank accounts, stop automatic withdrawals, empty the house, and file that very final tax return. Someone will have to figure out what to do with the treasures and collections that are currently part of your life.
While you get things organized, make sure your passwords are stored safely so that no one can steal your identity, but your executor can get to what’s needed. Also, make sure you’ve updated the legacy settings for accounts like Facebook and Google so your friends don’t see reminders about your birthday every year, and your account gets properly retired. Think beyond your usual digital access points and remember to look after your bank accounts, rent or mortgage payments, plus the prepaid gaming account you just signed up for, or your prepaid coffee app, and anything else you are having digital fun with while you’re alive.
This article may not be the usual inspiration you find from Fabulous at 50. We focus on the positive around here, and talking about our own death makes most of us feel uncomfortably mortal. However, setting up a plan is a big favour to your family, and a responsibility to be taken seriously. Once you’ve got it all done and you’ve created a calendar reminder to review your plan once a year, you can get on with living your life and having fabulous adventures.
Live long, and live inspired.
Dr. Pam Robertson has helped people from all walks of life – literally from accountants to zoo keepers – in her roles as a career and business consultant. In addition to achieving international best-seller status several times, she has spent the last 10 years working to understand, test, and leverage PR and social media marketing. She spends a lot of time in her kitchen testing and perfecting recipes that help us eat inspired, and likes to apply food metaphors to help people get what they want out of life.
T @PamRobertson and @LadybirdFiles