Connie (Heather’s childrens’ Godmother):
A little over 18 months ago, my mother died suddenly and unexpectedly. I learned a few things and realized a few things in that experience that might be helpful to other people, and I’ve been writing this blog post in my head since then. When Heather’s step-sister died three and a half months ago, I again thought I should share this, but still I didn’t feel I’d found the right words. Now that we’ve gone through another round of death and grief with the death of Heather’s sister Laura, I realize I can’t put this off any longer. This won’t be the most well-written post on Home Ec 101, and it certainly won’t be a complete list, but here are a few things that might help all of us prepare just a bit for unexpected things in our lives. Leave your own helpful ideas in the comments. We can all learn from each other.
Note: these are not necessarily in order of priority. Choose what you can do now to help your family.
* Get a living will and a will in place for every member of the family who is over age 18. Share the details of these documents with your family now. Let them know where the documents are kept.
* Become an organ donor. Make your wishes known.
* Put your family’s and friends’ phone numbers in your cell phones and on a list at home on your fridge. When an emergency happens, it doesn’t matter that you’ve never had to call your sister at her workplace before. You need to have that phone number available. The same goes with local friends. In today’s age of Twitter and Facebook, many of us of a certain generation never speak on the phone, but we need to have the option. It’s also helpful to have this list on your fridge in case law enforcement ever has to enter your home while you were away. For that reason, make sure you put your own cell phone and work numbers on the list.
* Put these numbers in your cell phone and on the list on your refrigerator:
Poison Control 800-222-1222
I’m so serious about this. If your child swallows something, you do not want to waste precious seconds trying to find the number to poison control. Calling 911 in this case isn’t the best answer either. The people at Poison Control have the most complete information to help you in this situation. Go right now, this minute, and put these numbers in your cell phone.
National Suicide Prevention Hotlines: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
Let’s pray we never have the need to use these numbers, but let’s have them at our fingertips just in case.
* Don’t let your car’s gasoline tank get near empty. If you have an emergency and have to get to the hospital immediately, whether to take a patient there or to try to make it there to say goodbye to somebody before it’s too late, you do not have time to fill up the tank along the way. This is a habit we all can start now.
* Similarly, don’t wait until the last minute to pay your bills. If you’re holding vigil for several days in a hospital, you don’t want to have to worry about coming home to utilities that have been turned off.
* Refill your prescriptions in a timely manner, so that you always have several days’ worth of medication available.
* Give a trusted family member or friend a key to your house and perhaps also your car. Be willing to be that person for others as well.
* If you have school-aged children, have at least two people in addition to parents listed as authorized to pick them up in an emergency in case you are unable to.
* If you have pets, discuss with your local friends and family who could take care of them in an emergency if you were unavailable. Go out of your way to offer to do this for your friends who have pets, because they may not be thinking ahead the way we’re trying to do.
* Even more importantly, if you have children, decide now who at least two people are who can care for them if you are unavailable for a period of time.
* Keep a pad of paper, two pens, and a pencil in your car’s glove box. They’ll be there when you need them, whether that’s because you were in a minor fender bender and need to exchange information with the other driver, or because you get that emergency call about your mom’s being taken to the hospital by ambulance and you need to write down details so you can call your sister in that town and tell her correct information about which hospital to go to.
* Does everybody in your house own funeral-appropriate attire in his or her current clothing size? I’m not necessarily suggesting we go out and buy clothes, but I do think if we take a moment to take inventory, that will help us prepare should the need arise. At least you’ll know ahead of time.
* Stay on top of the laundry. When my mom died, I was an hour and a half away from my home, and that home was 8 hours away from Mom’s home. I had to drive home, pack in just a few minutes, and get back on the road to drive to Tennessee. It helped tremendously to go into a closet full of clean and neatly put away clothes from which to choose while I packed, because trust me, I wasn’t thinking straight by that point.
* Know where your suitcases are. Unpack them and put them away when you get back from your trips so that you know where they are if you need them in a hurry. If your suitcases don’t have a designated home where you always store them, then assign one to them now and put them there each time.
* If there are people who depend on your income, get life insurance. Stay at home parents should be covered as well. Consider getting life insurance outside of your workplace benefits, because if you leave your job for any reason, your benefits will end. Even if nobody depends on your income and you’re not a stay at home parent in a two-parent household, consider getting at least enough life insurance to cover your funeral costs if you don’t have the financial resources for your estate to cover those expenses.
* Don’t put off saying what needs to be said. None of us is promised tomorrow. Pick up the phone and call the person you haven’t spoken to but have been meaning to, or write a letter and put it in the mail today. Life is short, and I’ve seen regret eat away at friends for years because their loved ones died before they mended fences. Reach out now so you don’t regret it later.
* Share this list with somebody, because sometimes it’s hard to start these conversations, and it’s okay if we use a post on a website to start the dialogue.