You’re going to die.

So now what are you going to do about it?

By

My position on death? I’m against it.

That said, I will concede I lose that argument, and that moreover, my opinion has never even mattered. Die I will.

And I am not alone in this — you will die, too. After all, death, darn it, just happens. Globally, about 65 million people die each year, 180 per day, 120 each minute. 108 billion people have walked the planet, and then died. That’s a lotta dying, and while it’s incredibly difficult and tragic — this last year especially so — that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it. Avoidance is not a solution.

Indeed, I’d argue that death is a grand mystery — sacred and important — and this last physical act of our lives can either go pretty well, like a graceful well-rehearsed piano solo or free-throw, or it can go pretty darn badly. Some of how it plays out is beyond our control, but not all of it. Some of it we can prepare for — and if anything deserves our full attention, some preparation, or some renewed clarity, death might be it.

So, the deal is: Tax Day is April 15. But I’d argue the real task — and probably the less miserable one — is to get our stuff in order for Healthcare Decisions Day, which is April 16.

I know: no one wants to do it.

I know: you’re probably starting to X out this essay, or skim it, or scowl at it.

But I’m begging you — and so are your peeps — to take a few hours now in order to save them potentially hundreds of hours. Yes, hundreds of hours. And possibly a lifetime of regret or heartache.

Getting basic and important documents done, and your simple wishes on paper, can literally be your great parting gift.

We all knew someone who left behind a mess — and we all promised ourselves not to be that person. Which means we have to set aside some time and get this stuff done.

First, there’s the medical and legal stuff – Advance Directives and a will – and making sure they’re done, signed, and accessible (they’re really no help if no one can find them). Plus, heck, just leave a note with a trusted person about where some of your stuff is and what you basically want done with it. A great place to start is The Conversation Project.

But in my death-positive work (stemming from my book Making Friends with Death: A Guide to your Impending Last Breath), I advocate writing an ethical will, too — what you stood for, your best and worst times, any reckoning or forgiving or venting or whatever you need to do.

Basically, it’s a “Goodbye letter to life,” if you will. My guess is that doing so will bring you a lot of peace, and will provide peace to those around you, too. Ideally, you don’t want to write this when you’re under duress – write it when you’re feeling great, write it on a lovely spring day, write it on April 16!

Finally, our last task is to advocate simple and direct communication about end-of-life care with those that will likely be involved with it. What looks good to you? What do you want to avoid, if possible? Get clear on what “a good death” looks like for you. Me? I’ve come to believe that a good death is simply one that has been claimed, to the extent possible. For me, that will involve: My medical wishes and decisions being respected (such as my DNR wishes being followed); I would like to die outside, or with a view of nature; I’d like to be with my children and loved ones, if possible; I’d like to be as fully informed about what’s going on, to the extent possible; I want people to be honest with me and I want to be honest with them; and I wouldn’t mind the smell of vanilla or sage and a taste of good whiskey on my lips. Such wishes are written down in about 10 different places, all accessible; my children roll their eyes when I bring it up and say, “Yes, yes, we know, Mom.”

What does yours look like? And who have you told?

Completely bizarre to me is this: A recent Pew Research Center study on end-of life issues found that less than half of people over 75 had given much thought to the end of their lives, and incredibly, only 22% of them had written down or talked to someone about medical treatment at the end of their lives. However, the same Pew study finds a sharp increase in all adults putting something in writing (six in 10 of us) and thinking through our deaths, which indicates that percentage-wise, it’s the slightly younger folks who are preparing now. Attitudes are shifting, too: an unprecedented 66% of us now think there are instances in which doctors should allow a patient to die (instead of doing everything possible to save a patient’s life). A tipping point, it seems to me, has been reached—and we’d like a more mindful, respectful death. We are reclaiming the ancient art of dying.

But there is much to be done. Indeed, though our culture is death-avoidant and confused, I am heartened by the increasingly popular “Death Cafés” and new movements such as “Slow Medicine,” and I’m grateful for April 16, which is the day we should all admit that our life belongs to us, but it also belongs to everyone we interact with, and we owe them the gift of directing an honest gaze at our demise.

But best of all, spending some time now might leave us thinking of death as more of a friend rather than a spooky stranger. With our newfound peace, we can then spend our precious time really living.

Complete Article HERE!

End of life planning

— starting difficult conversations

What do we mean by end of life planning?

End of life planning involves thinking in advance about your preferences and making decisions about the final months of your life. It can include:

  • deciding how you’d like to be cared for
  • thinking about where you’d prefer to die
  • making it clear if there are any treatments you don’t want to receive
  • putting your affairs in order by making a will
  • planning for your funeral.

Once you’ve thought about your wishes, it can help to share them with your close family so they’re aware of your preferences. However these conversations can bring about a range of emotions and starting them in the first place can be a real challenge. Here are some suggestions to help you begin the conversation around end of life planning with your loved ones.

Decide what you want to say

Take a bit of time to think about your wishes and exactly what you want to tell your loved ones. You might want to talk about the type of care you’d like to receive and any treatments you’d prefer not to be given. If you feel comfortable, you may want to let them know your preferences about where you’d like to die. As well as your future care, you may also want to talk about your funeral wishes and what you’d like to happen to your possessions. Make some notes on what you’d like to talk about – think about the things that matter to you most.

Choose the right time to talk

Have the conversation when you know what you’d like to say and, most importantly, when it feels right for you. You may want to let your family member or friend know in advance that you’d like to talk about end of life planning so it doesn’t come as too much of a shock for them when you bring it up.

If you’re not ready to have a face-to-face conversation yet, that’s completely okay too. Perhaps you could try expressing how you feel and the things you’d like to talk about in a letter or recording something on your phone instead.

Find the right setting

Have a think about where you’d feel most comfortable having the conversation. You’ll probably want somewhere that’s quiet and private, and somewhere you won’t be interrupted. That might be at your home or maybe while you’re out for a walk. Choose a place where you’ll feel most relaxed and at ease.

Start the conversation

Starting the conversation can be really difficult. You might want to plan how you’re going to bring up the topic and have some phrases ready in your mind. You might want to open with a question, “Have you thought much about…?” or perhaps a statement, “I know it’s a hard conversation to have, but I’d like to talk about…”. Having these phrases ready can help you feel more comfortable getting the conversation started. Try not to worry about saying the wrong thing; there’s no right or wrong way to deal with difficult conversations; the most important thing is you’ve been brave enough to start it.

Take your time

Don’t feel like you have to cover everything in that one conversation. Spread it out into a few conversations over time. Talking about dying can be emotionally draining both for you and your loved ones, so break the conversations down into small chunks and take your time.

Prepare for different reactions

Everyone will respond to conversations about death differently. Some people will find it easier to talk about than others. Try to be respectful of people’s reactions, keep calm and show you understand. If the person you’re talking to is finding the conversation difficult, then you can always say, “Let’s stop talking about this for now and come back to it another time.”

Talk to your GP

It can be helpful to talk to your GP, or another health professional involved in your care, about end of life planning. They can make you more aware of the options available to you. Let your GP know in advance that this is what you’d like to discuss. You could book a double appointment so the conversation doesn’t feel rushed.

There isn’t a right or wrong way to have a conversation about your end of life care. It’s difficult to talk about dying. It’s not something any of us necessarily want to be reminded about. But it’s important to make your wishes known to those closest to you so they’re aware of your plans and you have some peace of mind.

Complete Article HERE!

A Valentine’s Day Song for End-of-Life Care

End-of-life care planning has taken on added urgency as COVID-19 cases and deaths have surged

By Andrea Sears, Public News Service – NY

If you’re looking for a unique gift for Valentine’s Day, you might consider giving some peace of mind — by deciding and sharing what type care you’d want in a health crisis.

The COVID pandemic has brought new urgency to the need for end-of-life planning. It may seem like an unlikely theme for a song, but the not-for-profit organization Compassion & Choices has put its advice to music to encourage people to prepare advance directives for end-of-life care.

Kim Callinan, the group’s president and chief executive, said she hopes the song will help people find new ways to share messages of empowerment, gratitude and the importance of making plans aligned with their personal values and priorities.

“Valentine’s Day is a time when you show your loved ones that you care about them,” she said, “and one way to show that you care is to give the gift of clarity by documenting and discussing your end-of-life preferences.”

The song, “This Is Your Show,” features Broadway and film star Carmen Ruby Floyd. Callinan said the second verse captures the core message with the words, “You have the option to write your last chapter.”

Brandi Alexander, national director of community engagement at Compassion & Choices, noted that surveys show African-Americans are more likely to choose aggressive treatment to prolong life, but this group also is less likely than others to prepare advance directives, to let people know their wishes for end-of-life care.

“A lot of it has to do with a history of mistrust with the medical community, and really just not wanting to have the discussion,” she said, “and therefore, we don’t talk about it until it’s almost too late or until we’re in a time of crisis.”

Alexander added that when her father died without making his own end-of-life wishes clear, it caused disagreement and tension in her family as they tried to decide what he would have wanted.

Callinan urged people to go through the process of deciding what level of care they want, and then communicating those wishes. The organization’s website has a plan-your-care section that is free to use.

“That has a simple checklist that helps them to learn what priorities are most important to them and how to fill out an advance directive, how to make sure your doctor’s aware of what you want; having conversations with your health care proxy and your loved one,” she said.

She pointed out that end-of-life planning and discussions are about love, and how you or your family want to be cared for.

Complete Article HERE!

Lantern is a startup looking to ignite a conversation about how to die well

By Danny Crichton

America is a land of paperwork, and nowhere is that more obvious than at the end of someone’s life. Advanced care directives have to be carefully disseminated to healthcare providers and strictly followed. Property has to be divided and transferred while meeting relevant estate laws. And of course, there are the logistics of a funeral, cremation or other option that has its own serious complexities, costs and choices.

The worst time to figure out how to die is when you die. The best time to figure it out is precisely when you don’t have to.

For New York City-headquartered Lantern, the goal is to initiate those conversations early and give its users significantly better peace-of-mind, particularly in these dolorous times.

The company offers essentially a “how-to” platform for beginning to prepare for end-of-life, offering checklists and monitoring to ensure that the vast majority of details are figured out in advance. In some cases, the startup will handle the underlying details itself, while in other areas like estate planning, it works with partners such as Trust & Will, which we have profiled a number of times on TechCrunch.

Right now, the company has two plans: a simple free one and a $27 / year plan that tracks your progress on end-of-life planning and allows you to collaborate with family, friends or whoever else needs to be part of your decision-making. The company is in the process of adding other à la carte options for additional fees.

Last month, the company raised $1.4 million in a seed round led by Draper Associates with a few other firms involved. Earlier, the company raised a pre-seed round of $890,000 from the likes of 2048 Ventures, Amplify and others, bringing its total raised to date to $2.3 million. The company is organized as a public-benefit corporation and was founded in September 2018, and first launched a year later.

For founders Liz Eddy and Alyssa Ruderman, Lantern was an opportunity to tackle a looming problem in a compassionate and empathetic way. “I started my first company when I was 15,” Eddy, who is CEO, said. That company focused on dating abuse and domestic violence education for high school and later college students. “I really fell in love with the pace and variety of starting something new, but also in creating conversations around topics that people really don’t want to talk about and making it more palatable and comfortable,“ she said.

Later, she joined local suicide prevention nonprofit Crisis Text Line, which has an SMS-based network of crisis counselors who are trained to calm people and begin their process of recovery. She spent more than six years at the organization.

As for Ruderman, who is COO of Lantern, she most recently spent two years at Global Citizen, a nonprofit organization focused on ending extreme poverty. The two connected and incubated Lantern at startup accelerator Grand Central Tech.

The idea for better end-of-life planning came from personal experience. “I lost my dad when I was in elementary school,” Eddy said, “and saw firsthand how loss and grief impacts a family financially, emotionally, logistically, legally — every aspect.”

Today, many of these processes are offline, and the online products mostly available today are focused on individual elements of end-of-life planning, such as estate planning or selecting and purchasing a casket. Eddy and Ruderman saw an opportunity to provide a more holistic experience with a better product while also initiating these conversations earlier.

That pre-planning part of the product was launched just as the pandemic was getting underway last year, and Eddy said that “we had a sort of a really interesting launch where people were starting to come to terms with their own mortality in a way we hadn’t seen in a very long time.” Typical users so far have been between 25 and 35 years old, and many people start planning when they have a major life event. Eddy says that the death of a family member is an obvious trigger, but so is having a baby or starting a company.

One aspect that Eddy emphasized repeatedly was that having a will and pre-planning for end-of-life are not equivalent. “Even if you don’t have a dollar to your name after you pass away, there are a ton of other things that your loved ones, family members, whoever’s responsible has to consider,” she said.

From a product perspective, there are some nuances compared to your more typical SaaS startup. For one, the company needs to engage you regularly, but not too frequently. Unlike, say, a wedding, which is a single event that then is over, your documents and directives need to be occasionally edited and updated as a user’s life circumstances change.

Beyond that, one of the largest challenges with a product that talks about death is building a connection with a user that doesn’t seem cold, and, well, Silicon Valley-like. “Even as a product that is entirely virtual, making sure that you really feel that human connection throughout” is a high priority, Eddy said. “We use a lot of empathetic language, and our imagery, all of the illustrations are done by illustrators who have lost someone in memory of the person who’s lost.”

Longevity startups may remain a thesis for some VC investors, but handling the end — no matter when — is an activity every person faces. Lantern might shine just a bit more light on what is otherwise a debilitating and scary prospect.

Complete Article HERE!

What to Do When a Loved One Dies

Advice to keep a sad event from becoming even more painful

By Consumer Reports

Responsibility for the various actions can be divided among family members and close friends of the deceased.

Immediately

1. Get a legal pronouncement of death. If no doctor is present, you’ll need to contact someone to do this.

  • If the person dies at home under hospice care, call the hospice nurse, who can declare the death and help facilitate the transport of the body.
  • If the person dies at home unexpectedly without hospice care, call 911. Have in hand a do-not-resuscitate document if it exists. Without one, paramedics will generally start emergency procedures and, except where permitted to pronounce death, take the person to an emergency room for a doctor to make the declaration. Keep in mind that do-not-resuscitate laws vary at the state level and if a person does not want to be resuscitated, “calling 911 is not necessary” according to the National Institute on Aging. “If the death is not unexpected, you might call the individual’s physician first,” says Lori Bishop, vice president of palliative and advanced care at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
  • 2. Arrange for transportation of the body. If no autopsy is needed, the body can be picked up by a mortuary (by law, a mortuary must provide price info over the phone if you ask for it) or crematorium.

    3. Notify the person’s doctor or the county coroner.

    4. Notify close family and friends. (Ask some to contact others.)

    5. Handle care of dependents and pets.

    6. Call the person’s employer, if he or she was working. Request info about benefits and any pay due. Ask whether there was a life-insurance policy through the company.

    Within a Few Days After Death

    7. Arrange for funeral, memorial service, and burial or cremation. Search the person’s documents to find out whether there was a prepaid burial plan. Ask a friend or family member to go with you to the mortuary. Prepare an obituary.

    8. If the person was in the military or belonged to a fraternal or religious group, contact that organization. It may have burial benefits or conduct funeral services.

    9. Secure the person’s home. Or ask a friend or relative to keep an eye on it, answer the phone, collect mail, throw food out, water plants, and keep minimal heat on to avoid frozen pipes if it’s winter in a colder climate.

    Up to 10 Days After Death

    10. Obtain the death certificate (usually from the funeral home). Get multiple copies; you’ll need them for financial institutions, government agencies, and insurers.

    11. Take the will to the appropriate county or city office to have it accepted for probate. Check your state’s laws, which may require you to file the will within a set period of time.

    12. If necessary, the estate’s executor should open a bank account for the deceased’s estate.

    13. Contact the following:

    • A trust and estate attorney, to learn how to transfer assets and assist with probate issues.
    • Police, to have them periodically check the deceased’s house if vacant.
    • An accountant or a tax preparer, to find out whether an estate-tax return or final income-tax return should be filed.
    • The person’s investment adviser, if applicable, for information on holdings.
    • Banks, to find accounts and safe deposit box.
    • Life insurance agent, to get claim forms.
    • The Social Security Administration (800-772-1213; ssa.gov) and other agencies from which the deceased received benefits, such as Veterans Affairs (800-827-1000; va.gov), to stop payments and ask about applicable survivor benefits. The SSA, like the VA, recommends immediately reporting the person’s death, though in many cases the funeral home will handle this.
    • Agency providing pension services, to stop monthly checks and get claim forms.
    • Utility companies, to change or stop service, and Postal Service, to stop or forward mail. Reach out to other companies to stop recurring bills and subscriptions. If home is vacant, contact the insurer to switch to a vacant policy. If home is under a mortgage, contact the lender.
    • The IRS, credit-reporting agencies, and the DMV to prevent identity theft.
    • Social media companies, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, to memorialize or remove an account.

    Know the Person’s Wishes

    For an elderly friend or relative:

    • Know the location of the will, birth certificate, marriage and divorce certificates, Social Security information, life-insurance policies, financial documents, and keys to safe deposit box or home safe. Ask the person to create an inventory of their digital assets (such as email, social networks, and digital files) and include a plan for these assets in their will.
    • Ask about the person’s wishes concerning funeral arrangements, organ and brain donation, and burial or cremation.
    • Have the person complete an advance directive, including a living will, which specifies wanted and unwanted procedures. The person should also appoint a healthcare proxy to make medical decisions if he or she becomes incapacitated. Some who are more seriously ill might also consider a Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment in addition to an advance directive.
    • Ask the person about end-of-life care, such as palliative and hospice care (which have key differences), and what their insurance will cover. Medicare, which covers most elderly Americans, will cover hospice care. Palliative care is growing in popularity, but “keep in mind that anyone with six months or less to live should have access to hospice,” Bishop says.
    • Have a do-not-resuscitate order drawn up if the person desires. That tells healthcare professionals not to perform CPR if the person’s heart or breathing stops and restarting would not result in a meaningful life.
    • Make sure the person gives copies of the documents to his or her doctor and a few family members or friends. Take the documents to the hospital if the person is admitted.

    Complete Article HERE!

Veterans can make an end of life care plan while healthy

By

Veterans have a way to tell their loved ones about their end of life care wishes in advance of any medical crisis.< Life-Sustaining Treatment Orders empower older veterans to communicate their final care wishes at the end of their life. “It is important to have these conversations during non-crisis times when patients have decision-making capacity,” said VA Geriatric Scholar Elkee Baker in a blog post.

Navy veteran Don Begg, 90, completed an order with the participation of.his wife, Beatrice.

“We did it together,” she said. “We talked about it. He was adamant about no resuscitation. He’s lived a good, long life and doesn’t want to be kept alive by artificial means.”

“It’s informative. It puts you in a good mood. You can understand what’s wrong with you,” shared Begg, a Korean War veteran.

Begg’s daughter, Molly Houssian, said knowing her father’s preferences gives her family peace of mind.

“He’s very aware of his situation and feels good about the life he’s led,” Houssian said. “It’s been a good experience for him. He’s been able to make decisions instead of his family scrambling to figure out what he wants as opposed to what he doesn’t want. It gives us peace of mind knowing he’s made that decision for himself.”

Baker said the reactions of both veterans and caregivers to the order have been overwhelmingly positive.

“Many discussions turn into meaningful and loving conversations. I heard statements such as, ‘I’m so glad we discussed this, Dad. I never knew you didn’t want that.’ And ‘I’m so glad you talked about this with my dad before he became so ill, because now I know what he wants me to do., she said

COVID-19 has heightened the need for conversations about end-of-life treatment plans

“It has never been more important to have goals-of-care conversations with our patients during this pandemic,” Baker continued. “We need to talk about potential complications from COVID due to advanced age and underlying health conditions and how this might cut the potential success rate of treatment options like ventilator support, for example.”

To learn more about the orders, visit here.

Complete Article HERE!

Are you prepared to die?

I am, and that’s the right way to live.

Barry Owen, my friend and former partner, hiking in California in 2017. In his final weeks, Owen completed the necessary to-dos in preparation of his death. He died a year after his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

By Steven Petrow

I am prepared to die.

No, I’m not suffering from a terminal disease (as far as I know). Nor have I been infected with the novel coronavirus that causes covid-19. But thanks mainly to the pandemic I have been motivated to complete about 90 percent of the necessary steps for end-of-life planning. I have taken note of the nearly 202,000 Americans who have died unexpectedly from covid-19 or its complications in the past seven months.

Most of these people, it’s fair to say, were not planning on a sudden death. Many died alone in hospitals, and too often they didn’t have the opportunity to bid loved ones farewell. Caring.com reported that before the pandemic hit, fewer than half those 55 and older had completed estate-planning documents (such as a will, a living will, and designating a medical power of attorney). Among those 18 to 34, it was a paltry 16 percent.

The No. 1 reason for everyone: I haven’t gotten around to it.

Covid-19 has claimed the lives of several people I know in recent months; sadly, they weren’t the only deaths in my personal and aging circle. Barry Owen, 67, a friend and former partner, died of pancreatic cancer in May, a year after being diagnosed. Shortly after being told he had Stage 4 of the disease, he posted on his Caring Bridge site, “To borrow a line from ‘Grass,’ a favorite childhood poem by Carl Sandburg: ‘What place is this? Where are we now?’ ”

That question — “Where are we now?” — resonated for me as the pandemic spread unabated. Who knows when the bell will toll for thee?

Actually, I’m not alone in having jump-started my death planning.

Recently, the New York Times reported on just such a “boom” due to the pandemic. So many questions. Who do I want to act as my medical power of attorney? Why do I need a living will? Do I want to be cremated or not? What songs do I want played at my funeral?

Not surprisingly, there are now new Web services — with checklists — specifically for this kind of planning. One of them, Lantern, whose mission is to be “the single source of guidance for navigating life before and after a death,” reported a more than 120 percent increase in users since the beginning of the pandemic.

With the obituary pages growing ever thicker these days, I’m reminded of the nadir of the HIV epidemic when gay men dropped out of sight only to turn up in a death notice soon after. In 1986, at age 29, I’d been given an AIDS diagnosis, then synonymous with a death sentence. Fortunately, it turned out the doctors had erred in making my diagnosis. But during those weeks when I feared dying, I began to make an end-of-life plan.

I didn’t get far. I got only as far as engaging a lawyer to draw up a will when I learned that my lesion was not Kaposi’s sarcoma, one of the cancers associated with AIDS. No longer facing an untimely death, I put my head back in the sand — which is to say I stopped responding to his emails — and the lawyer actually fired me as an unresponsive client. When I pleaded for one more chance, he gave it to me and I completed my first “Last Will and Testament,” and a living will, too, that detailed what medical treatments I wanted — and would forgo — if I could no longer give consent myself.

In 2006, I added a codicil to that first will when I bought a house with my partner, Jim. Oh, and I designated him as my medical power of attorney, bumping my sister down to the “backup” position.

Still, as I crossed the threshold to 50 and then again to 60, I made no other plans. In 2018, a year after Jim and I legally separated (we’d married in 2013), a new lawyer castigated me for taking no action. By leaving things as they were, my soon-to-be-ex would still inherit my part of our house equity (rather than my siblings) and he’d be making life and death decisions for me in the event I was incapacitated. (Yikes!)

Again, I found myself stuck in denial — over the failed marriage, and that like everyone else I’d die one day, too.

By nature I am a procrastinator, but this pandemic — all those deaths — has forced a new reality on me. In recent months, I’ve taken various steps to make sure I’m ready — or at least “readier” — for what my friend and literary agent Richard Pine likes to call, “The End.”

My will and living will are now updated. (I got rid of all mention of my ex in estate finances or end-of-life decisions.) In our family cemetery plot, I’ve chosen my place, and there are new notes in a manila folder for a memorial service and an obituary, although I’ve not actually written a draft like other really well-prepared friends I know. With a nod to Leona Helmsley and her much-spoiled Maltese, my new puppy will go to previously agreed-on guardians, along with a crate, some kibble and some money to cover future costs.

If anything, like others these days, I’ve come to understand the importance of getting one’s affairs in order. Greg Brock, 67 and a retired journalist, frets about having unfinished business, especially after his sister “dropped dead” a year ago.

“It was a shock, and her children were left with so many headaches with her estate, including no funeral plans,” he said.

Since then Brock has vowed to get his “act together, starting with the end.” He has bought a grave­site and is now ordering the headstone, which he admits “will be weird.” He hopes that looking at his headstone will spur him on “to organize other aspects of my life.” Good luck, friend.

I’m impressed by those I know who have such lofty but wise intentions: To set things in order sooner than later. But “why do today what I can do tomorrow?” has long been one of my favorite mantras.

Well, I’ve now ditched that aphorism, thanks to Marie Kondo, author of the best-selling “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” I’ve gone though much of my stuff — applying her “delight test” — jettisoning and donating shirts and sheets, pots and pans, and bed linens and bandannas. (Although, had I known the pandemic would be still with us, I would have saved all those old bandannas to be used as masks/face coverings.)

The pandemic has also prompted me to say things I might not otherwise have. I’ve been making it a point to acknowledge those whom I love in a forthright manner, which has brought about reciprocal responses.

At the outset of the pandemic, I emailed Barry Owen a short note; at the time he appeared to be holding steady. I reminded him of our mutual friend, Denise Kessler, and explained that about the time she turned 90, we both “began ending all of our conversations with “I love you.” She and I continued that ritual until two weeks before she died at age 98, I wrote Barry, ending with the same message to him, “I love you.”

In his reply, he updated me on his condition. “No news is good news, which is to say, I’m still here.” He explained that he and Dan, his husband, “speak frankly with each other about death and what is it called? Oh yeah, end-of-life planning. But we don’t dwell on my condition or the future. We live our shared lives as normally as possible.”

And then he signed the email, “Love, Barry.”

In his final weeks, Barry completed the necessary to-dos in preparation of his death, his husband told me. And then he died, a year after his diagnosis, and a week after his first wedding anniversary.

By the time of his death, three months into the pandemic, I had finished my own death planning. I am prepared — but not ready to go.

Where to get help online

For those who need help getting started, here are some resources:

Lantern (lantern.co) is a free website with checklists and articles about end-of-life preparations.

Everplans (everplans.com) is a subscription-based online product for creating, organizing and storing your end-of-life plan.

The Conversation Project (theconversationproject.org) is a website focused on helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care.

Complete Article HERE!