We each have a personal story about the death of a loved one. I’d like to share mine.
As a former Estates and Trusts paralegal, I often spent days, sometimes weeks, on a scavenger hunt helping widows and their families find important information after the death of a loved one. What I also found were chaotic situations during an emotionally charged time.
I spent countless hours sifting through clients desk drawers, files, basements and attics trying to piece together a Court Inventory of their personal, business, and financial assets. It was tedious and costly. Often, I observed widows and widowers lost in the maze and magnitude of the tasks immediately following the death of their spouse. Many times, families lacked direction for funeral or memorial services and lacked the knowledge of whether or not a spouse, or parent, had wished to be cremated or buried.
Few had made any prior plans. No one was having those kinds of conversations and, if they had, no one could remember or agree on what was said.
I come from three generations of financial advisors and I'm married to a nationally recognized wealth manager. Talking about plans for the future and being prepared for the "what if's" are part of my daily life and often the topic of conversation around the dinner table.
I was always a person who was "prepared" and "ready"...until I was not.
On May 4, 2006, my cell phone rang and my brother spoke. He said "mom's dead" and my world immediately turned upside down. Panic, tears, and uncontrollable grief engulfed what was once a beautiful sunny morning. My mother's sudden death was a shock. We were incredibly close and I had just spoken to her the night before to discuss who was being voted off American Idol. She was healthy, happy, and living her life. And then, she was suddenly and tragically gone.
The days following her death were so chaotic that grieving had to take a back seat to what felt like an endless trail of tasks and paperwork.
My family spent countless hours searching for documents, double-checking facts and details about her life for her obituary, and we made a multitude of hurried phone calls. We ran copious errands and had meetings with attorneys, funeral directors, clergy, and florists. I was overwhelmed, emotionally wrung out, and worried about how we would ever finalize the myriad of details, sort through her personal effects, and most of all, honor what we only guessed her wishes might have been.
The irony of it all is that my mother would have hated that at the end of her life she became a burden to us. I learned a very hard lesson a very hard way, but my mother also ended up giving me a real gift - the gift of preparedness.
My estates and trusts training, together with my own personal experience, led to the inception of LastingMatters.
I am passionate about changing the way people approach the topic of end-of-life planning for incapacity and death. I want to make conversations about planning for any kind of life-changing event both practical and helpful, not morbid and fearful. And I want to make planning easy and comprehensive for any adult, at any age.
It’s my sincerest hope that my family’s experience offers your family the gift of preparedness during an emotionally challenging time.
The gift of information is the greatest gift you can give to those you love and to those you will leave behind.
What’s Your Story?
We’ve all lost someone we love. Here are some stories from others that might open a dialogue about a difficult topic; the more we share our experiences of death, the more willing we will be to prepare for our own.
Share your story here.