Preparation for loved ones for when you are just not there.
All too often, parents, mates or other family members die or go away suddenly without leaving important banking information, house and car maintenance records, PIN numbers, the location of keys, codes, phone numbers, addresses and so much more. Everyone wants to be more methodical in keeping such records and instructions, and Kathleen Fraser provides the guidebook to make it easy for those left behind.
Elegantly designed and tastefully illustrated, When I'm Gone is a practical fill-in record book and resource manual to help loved ones better handle all the little details of life when someone dies or is away for extended periods because of debilitating illness or other reasons. This book provides a place to give instructions not only concerning wills, funeral arrangements, insurance, lawyers and last wishes, but also about all the day-to-day details of the household.
This book includes useful information and space to write in notes on:
This is the practical guide to the essential data that anyone left behind, including any executor of a new estate, would love to find in a handy place.
Kathleen Fraser is an editor, author, wife, mother, daughter, aunt and oldest sister, and she feels responsible for almost everyone in her family. She lives in Mississauga, Ontario.
Many of us have lost parents, partners or other family members and found ourselves suddenly without important banking information, house and car maintenance records, PIN numbers, the location of keys, codes, phone numbers, addresses and more. What if you were suddenly gone? If tomorrow you were run over by a bus, or diagnosed with terminal cancer or found yourself facing a debilitating illness such as Alzheimer's and you knew today that tomorrow you wouldn't be able to look after everything yourself any more? What if you are among the many people who, for one reason or another, have to be away from home for long periods of time -- months, even years? How would your loved ones manage?
This is a fill-in book to give instructions to those who are left behind, not only on wills, funeral arrangements, insurance, lawyers and last wishes, but also on all the day-to-day details of your life and household and history, and what they'll need to know to carry on without you. It will be hard enough with you gone without their having to worry about who owes what to whom, what kind of medicine the dog needs, and how to clean out the pool filter. Almost everything they'll wish they could ask you when you are gone can be contained in these pages.
One of the basic ideas behind this book is you aren't going to live forever. Some day you are going to die. Wouldn't it be good to face that fact and be a little bit prepared? We prepare for all the other major events in our lives. Why not death?
Hand in hand with this idea is the notion that we really can't know what's around the corner. Even before you die, there may be a time, for one reason or another, that you won't be around to keep things running smoothly. You could be sick, you could be called up to serve your country in the military, or you could be sentenced to five years in the slammer for cooking the books. Or you may be suddenly divorced or separated, and sharing responsibility for children who will live away from you part of the time.
There will be things your family should know if anything happens to you -- or to them. And there may be friends, neighbors and coworkers who depend on you, and who will wish you had left them a few pointers on how to handle the day-to-day details. By ensuring all the practical information needed is available, and by making your wishes clear, you can better support others and provide for your own needs as well.
I have a friend whose husband is a long-distance truck driver. When their kids were young, her husband was on the road a lot and rarely home during the week. As it turned out, at the same time, her father, who had a farm in the country but a job in town, needed a home base in town for weekdays, and so he stayed with her during the week. For years! You can imagine, with three people running the household, that they had to devise a system for communicating everything to each other -- what bills were paid, when the furnace filter needed replacing, when the kids had to register for clubs, and so on. If something had changed and any one of the three responsible adults in their home couldn't be there, a book like this would really come in handy. In other words, you don't have to be a morbid fatalist to use this book.
Although sooner or later, you will have to face death. As far as I can tell, apart from living a good life, there's not a lot you can do to plan for life after death. But knowing that your time in this life is limited, you can plan to make it easier for the people you care about to live without you when you're gone. When my father died a few years ago, we were not at all prepared. It was a bit ironic that we were not ready, because his father and brother had both died at fifty of heart attacks, and so my parents considered every year Dad lived past his fiftieth birthday a bonus year. Mom and Dad resolved to do the things they wanted to do and spend time together enjoying each other. And they did -- for more than twenty more years they were almost always in each other's company, leading a full and rich life. That year, as they did every year, my parents flew home to be with the family for Christmas. The next day Dad complained of a cold, so they went to the doctor, but the doctor didn't seem concerned. That night they went to a party with old friends and had a great time. But the next morning Dad was coughing blood. Mom called the ambulance, Dad was rushed to hospital, and by the end of the day he was dead.
We were all in shock. And since then, over past few years, we have had to adjust to Dad being gone. The biggest adjustment, of course, has been for my mother. She and Dad were less than a year away from their fiftieth wedding anniversary when he died. They had spent so much time together, grown up together, and depended on each other for so much. I don't know how Dad would have got along had Mom gone first -- we joke that there would have been women waiting to snap him up and take care of him -- but Mom was finding that the man she had married was irreplaceable.
Having just got through his funeral and a memorial, and all the myriad details of selling his company and winding up the estate, and having to do all the things my father had ordinarily taken care of for two households, and simply living through missing and mourning him, my mother was hit afresh by catastrophe. The summer after Dad died, their winter home in Florida was hit by a hurricane. The insurance company did not want to pay up and Mom had to deal with that and with tradesmen who seemed to treat her as an easy mark and would never, she was certain, have dealt with my father in the same way. Dad kept extraordinarily complete and well-organized records about everything -- in various files, or on his computer (although mostly accessible only through passwords or user names that Mom didn't know) -- but there was still more that was in his head and never got written down, or if it did, we either couldn't find it or didn't know if what we found was the latest version. And without specific instructions, there was no way my mother was going to know how to operate all Dad's electronic and stereo equipment or, more important, if there were any other bank accounts or insurance policies she didn't know about. She certainly didn't have the receipt for the skylights at her fingertips when the first insurance adjustor tried to say the skylights were already leaking before the hurricane! She has come a long way since those early days, but there were many tears of frustration in the beginning.
My mother's frustration with all those everyday things after Dad was gone really affected her -- and us. It made me and my husband think how disorganized we were, and how difficult it would be for our daughters to sort through our lives and belongings if we were gone. We had already been though the process and knew how stressful it was to deal with all kinds of unknowns when we were grieving.
We resolved to try to get ourselves organized. We're still only halfway there, but once I am finished writing this book, I promise to fill it in for our children, and to give a copy to my brother and sisters, and another to my mother, to encourage them to do the same. I may even give our daughters copies because, young as they are, they are beginning responsible lives of their own.
I do not mean to say that having a filled-in copy of this book will bring a loved one back home, or ease feelings of regret or grief. But I do hope that it will serve as a practical aid in what can be a time of emotional distress.
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