Last night I gathered a set of documents that has taken me years to complete — my last wishes and instructions in case of incapacity and death. I feel a bit spooked, yet relieved now that all that’s done. With members of my birth family living a continent away, it’ll fall on my friends here to look after things for me. Now they won’t have to guess what he would have wanted. The following are now in place:
• Last will (testament) deposited at a lawyer’s office. A recent revision involved a conversation with two friends to act as primary and back-up executors — they’ll be responsible to ensuring my affairs are settled according to my wishes.
• Instructions to my financial advisor to distribute funds in my retirement savings plan to several non-profit societies.
• Health Care Representation Agreement — a legal undertaking signed by two friends, both nurses by profession, to act on my behalf when I’m unable to make decisions regarding long-term care and medical treatment. Copy to GP.
• Power of Attorney — another document in two further friends have agreed to conduct my financial affairs should I be unable to do so.
• Registration with the Eye Bank and Transplant Society to permit them to “acquire, process and distribute eye tissue [and] do corneal transplants and scleral grafts.” Such ‘harvesting’ must be done within hours of death. Copy to GP.
• Registration with the Body Donation Program in the faculty of medicine of our major university. They’ll have the option to receive the cadaver (minus eyes but with all other organs intact) at my estate’s expense and keep it for up to three years for use in teaching, training and research. After use, they’ll arrange for cremation of the remains and contact the executor/next of kin to collect the ashes.
• Finally, my directions ask my remains to be divided into two equal portions, one to be sent to my home monastery for interment, the other to be cast over the waters of the Pacific.
Phew! I still have to let people know where these documents are kept (many recommend the freezer compartment of the fridge which will be relatively safe even in case of a house fire) and to make a list of people to be informed when I’m near death or afterwards.
What about you? What are your last wishes? Have you explored this with your family and close friends? Written anything down? Almost everyone I talked to assumed that “someone will know my wishes.” Have you talked to them, I asked? No, not yet!
These aren’t easy conversations to have. No one wants to talk about dying, but everyone who reads this will. How about you? What are our wishes and instructions?