This weekend, I’m flying to San Jose to attend a “Celebration of Life” for my aunt and uncle, who both died recently. Their five children are organizing it. One is doing food, another is putting together a slide show, another is doing decorations, others will make sure everyone is invited. Ironically, it’s being held in the multi-purpose room at my old elementary school, which is a senior center now.
It’s a sad occasion that my cousins are trying to make less sad by remembering the good times. Meanwhile, they’ll be cleaning out their parents’ house and arranging to sell it. They’ll also be handling the endless paperwork that follows someone’s death.
I have seen my parents do the same for their parents, and my husband and I have done similar tasks for his parents and my mother. It seems a natural duty for the children of the deceased.
So the question on the table is, who does this stuff when you don’t have any children, especially if you don’t have a husband who can take charge and you’re short on siblings? Can you really count on your friends? Even if they wanted to, they probably won’t have the legal rights to pay for a funeral with your life insurance money, to dispose of your things, or to close out your bank accounts.
I have one brother whom I have designated to do everything, but what if he isn’t able to handle it when the time comes? It seems the only answer is to make preparations for yourself. Even though we all think we’re going to live forever, hire a lawyer and do the paperwork. Write down what you want and make sure the people who are close to you know what to do. Childless by choice or by circumstance, we may well find ourselves on our own at the end. If you want a Celebration of Life,either pay somebody to make sure your wishes are carried out or start getting closer to those cousins or nephews you don’t know very well. Otherwise, there’ll be nothing but a two-line death notice at the bottom of the obituary page.