Countdown to Death

One day, but hopefully not for (many, many) years, we will all cease to exist. Obviously it’s a deeply distressing concept that’s almost impossible for us humans to wrap our brains around. But whatever your cultural or religious belief system (or lack of one) about the afterlife (or none), death is inevitable, it will come to us all. 

Here’s the good news: You’re alive today. 

And if you take a while to ponder the big questions, you can make the process of leaving this existence easier for you, and those you love. Here’s our countdown to preparing for death so you know everything’s sorted, and you can get on with the business of enjoying your life. 

THE LEGAL RIGMAROLE

Write, or update, your will. USA.gov has a useful site which lays out everything you need to make decisions on. Leave your affairs in order so your loved ones are protected. Your will is literally that – your will, or choices. Set out how your property, money and belongings will be divided. Choose an executor and get your documents notarized. Keep paper copies in a metal lock box and digital copies in a password protected hard-drive. Let trusted parties know where everything is (including the key to the lock box and drive password when the time comes). Also complete an Advance Directive to state what level of intervention you desire when medically incapacitated. The National Institute on Aging has great advice here

YOUR DIGITAL LEGACY

We live in an age of perpetually connected people sharing life via social media. If you’re managing a chronic disease, you’ll know how helpful it is to talk with others in the same position online. But what do you want to happen with your digital archive after you’ve gone? All those photos stored in the cloud. Blog posts. They will be wiped if your accounts are closed. Think about what, and how, you want to be remembered online. Perhaps you’d like to record your life story, so it’s stored for future generations to read. Services like Life Bio help people record their memories for posterity.    

YOUR LAST WISHES

How do you want to leave? Do you want to be mourned, or celebrated, or both? Burial followed by quiet ceremony? Cremation and an eccentric Mad Hatter tea party? There are several services, like Cake, that allow you to plan your funeral/wake/1980s disco, right down to the decor, playlist and, most importantly guest-list. 

TYING UP LOOSE ENDS

Finally, are you “good” with everyone you know? Are there relationships that you let fall by the wayside? Are you holding onto grudges or outdated pain? If it’s too difficult, or unwise, to approach people, why not write a letter, or long (draft) email and save it for now? You might send it later, or leave instructions in your will for it to be passed on afterwards. Don’t leave anything unsaid. Don’t have regrets. Life is just too short.