On August 31, 2023, my grandmother passed away at the age of 96. Agnes Manis was a very organized businesswoman who had all her affairs in order at the time of her passing. She had a Will, a Trust, and her grave site and funeral were already paid for. She assigned the Power of Attorney and Medical Power of Attorney and completed the necessary Living Will and Directive documents. My mother was listed on all accounts, investments, and property. Heck, she had even chosen her burial outfit and favorite songs. The only thing she didn’t do was write her own eulogy and obituary (or at least we couldn’t find it). She thought of EVERYTHING. Or so we thought!
Even with all the planning, there were still things to be done and decisions to make that no one had foreseen. The first question, once she was placed in hospice, was when to take her home from the hospital. Hospice allowed a 5-day stay at the hospital. If the stay lasted more than 5 days, hospice services would cease. If the family moved the patient home, hospice services would continue in the home. The services allowed a nurse to visit a couple times a day to check in on the patient and an aid to come once every couple of days to provide sponge baths and grooming. That left the family with all other responsibilities (24 hours a day), including: administration of medicines every 2 hours; rolling the patient every 3 hours to prevent bed sores; wetting the patient’s mouth and applying lip balm every several hours. So, the question became …. Were there enough friends and family members to provide this care 24 hours a day until my grandmother passed?
In our case, my grandmother lived 5 days after she was taken off food and hydration (highly unusual, but obviously possible). We decided to bring her home on the 5th day, which meant we had to get the house ready for the supply company to set up the medical bed. Then the hospital arranged for her to be transported to the house.
Once my grandmother passed, there was more to consider. We had to contact the supply company to pick up the bed and notify the funeral home to pick up my grandmother. That was very hard to walk through. The emotion was raw!!!!
Some decisions sounded so simple, but when you have just lost a close loved one, your brain does not work properly. It was hard for my mother to make decisions, understand what was needed and even remember dates and information she had known her whole life. She was lucky to have myself and my cousin to help answer questions but, even we didn’t have all the answers. Although the funeral had been planned, certain things had changed between the time my grandmother made the arrangements and the actual date of her death (25 years to be exact). The casket she had chosen was no longer available, so we had to find one as close as possible to honor her wishes. We also needed to pay for the burial site to be dug out/covered back up and for the headstone company to etch her date of death on the headstone.
And then we were faced with vital statistics and obituary questions ……
- Legal Name, maiden name, address, date of birth, date of death, gender and race (these were easy)
- Place of death, age and SSN (also easy)
- Legal names and DOB of children – date of death if applicable
Then for the hard ones. My cousin and I didn’t know the answers and mom was not able to remember in her state of grief.
- Date of graduation from high school
- Name of high school
- Dates of marriages and names of spouses (she outlived two husbands)
- Father and Mother’s legal name
- Mother’s maiden name
- Names and locations of remaining grandchildren and great grandchildren
Eventually we were able to reach out and get all the questions answered, but it took a day or two.
Next came the final preparations for the funeral. Over my lifetime, I have been to many funerals, but I have never been involved in any of the preparations. This was an eye opener for me.
- Choosing the pallbearers
- Contacting the pastor
- Lining up the church and food for family after the funeral
- Choosing flowers to be placed on the casket
- Choosing pictures to be used in the slideshow
- Choosing songs/hymns would be played prior to the service
- Lining someone up to give the eulogy
- Who will be singing? Who will play the music, or will it be digital?
- Will the funeral offer streaming video for individuals who could not make the trip?
- Will she be buried with her wedding rings/jewelry or does the family want this back prior to the burial.
The work seemed endless, and our energy faded. Even with all the work my grandmother put into her end-of-life plan, there was still so much to do. I could not even imagine what it would have looked like if she had not been so diligent.
Looking back over the last few weeks, I am in utter panic over the passing of my parents and myself. I am in no way prepared. I don’t even have a Will. I am so glad that ETC LOLA offers a playbook to walk me step-by-step through the arduous task of all things “end of life”. I need to get my affairs in order so that I do not leave my children with a mess. AND I need to make sure I have everything prepared for my parents’ funerals. It is not an easy thing to talk about, but it is sooooooooooooo important for the well being of those left behind.