My mother passed away January 23, 2013. She had been failing for several years, but was still clear minded and enjoying life from her recliner and wheel chair. I wrote the book My Life in a Box…a Life Organizer to help people through family emergencies and natural disasters and honestly thought that I would be able to go through her passing, without all of the shock and grief like I had so many times before. But not so!
Within seconds of Mom breaking her left hip and falling (from the broken hip) our lives changed and the stress, grief, and other physical things set in. From the time the paramedics took her to the hospital until she passed away, only 48 hours passed. She was already experiencing kidney failure before her hip broke, so everything within that 48 hours really sped up the decline of her health. I found myself in shock. Yet, I had been preparing for a couple of years…not really knowing the way it would all finally happen.
The reason that I am bringing this up now is because I actually had to go get a copy of My Life in a Box, open it up and re-read the Check-Off List, and follow it. I also had to remind myself that no matter how good our intentions or wishes for Mom’s burial and memorial service, we had to work with businesses with their own agendas.
Since Mom’s passing, I have gone back and re-read My Life in a Box a couple of times and it has helped me remember to eat, drink water, and not get stuck in overwhelming emotions that have a tendency to grab me when I least expect them. Granted, I grieved the loss of my mother…but I faced the grief, embrace the memories that were attached to that moment, and then moved forward.
The biggest take away from this experience happened when my sister and I went to the funeral home and cemetery to make the arrangements. The funeral director sat down with us and said “Everything is in place and you don’t owe us anything more.” Mom had purchased a pre-need insurance policy, filled out the forms in My Life in a Box, picked out the type of services she wanted, and everything was written down and covered. Our only surprise came when we went to the cemetery, where the graves had been previously purchased, and found out that the opening and closing of the grave and the liner fees had gone up to $1600.00 (from the previous $1200 when Dad passed away). And they didn’t take credit cards! We were also given one hour for the burial within a two-week time frame as there were so many burials that month. So on Wednesday, January 30th at 1pm we had the burial and then we had the memorial service the following Saturday.
The next few months we had the task of going through the collection of Mom’s belongings. Fifty years she had been in one house. We were grateful that before her passing, we had assembled a photo journal of all of her furniture and nick-nacks. Each of the kids were given a printed copy of the journal and they were able to respond back to me if they were interested in her furniture, lamps, wall decorations, or even her kitchen supplies. Mom enjoyed seeing which grand child wanted her sofa, or rocker, and she always mentioned at the end of our conversations” Well, tell them to hold on…because I’m not leaving any time soon.” And then we would laugh.
Going through 50 years of memories can be hard, so do what you can ahead of time and make sure everyone has an opportunity to be a part of the distribution. If you have a large family, or family members live out of town, I have some other suggestions on how to divide heirlooms and memories. Make sure and keep one journal with names and dates, and also keep track as soon as anything is taken out of the house. You’ll be glad that you did in the long run.