My mother recently passed away and I am grateful for the communication we had about her wishes and preferences for when the time came. She suffered from a chronic illness so the family had time to prepare themselves for her passing and I had the time to prepare to be the Executor of her estate.
How did my mother prepare?
– Many years ago she gave me a copy of her Will and Powers of Attorney for when the time came. This gave me the chance to ask questions and keep my siblings informed of their responsibilities as well.
– She had arranged and prepaid for her funeral. There were still last minute decisions to make but she did not burden us with guessing what she would want.
– She spoke to many of us about our participation during her memorial so that everyone was involved.
– She disposed of the possessions that were closest to her heart prior to her passing so that she could enjoy the gifts she made.
– She asked us to select personal possessions from her home every item we visited. If she wanted to keep them for now our initials were applied to masking tape on the bottom of the item.
– She openly answered questions I had about personal possessions she had not yet documented knowing that I would follow-through on her wishes.
In summary she communicated with all of us. There were very few questions remaining when she passed.
Why is communication necessary? Think of the problems a lack of communication has in your own life. What happens to your career, relationships with your spouse or children or relationships with friends or extended family if there are communication problems?
When it comes to communicating our wishes and preferences I’ve summarized the hurdles to communication into four categories.
The first communication hurdle is the not-invented-here problem of refusing to acknowledge that we are human and believing that accidents and health crisis only happen to other people. Believing we will live a long life gives purpose to our daily lives but can leave our survivors in chaos while they are grieving.
The second communication hurdle is fear that if this information is documented and communicated you will die in the near future. I call this the selfish problem, as you are only thinking about yourself and not the people you leave behind.
The third communication problem is procrastination until the point of no return. Postponing because of other so-called priorities leaves very important information unsaid. Is that dinner party or TV show more important than communicating your wishes?
The fourth problem is missing the opportunity to have the conversation or the time to write it down. Without a goal of communicating important information it never reaches the top of the priority list and remains incomplete. Are family gatherings only for fun and frivolity or are they opportunities to share important information?
In December I wrote a blog titled “Uncomfortable Conversations” but I now wish I had titled it differently. I would now title it “Love, Respect and Communication”.
My mother respected us enough to carry through her wishes without putting ourselves first that she did not hesitate to communicate them openly and frankly with us. She retained her autonomy until the end of her days and expected us to love and respect her in decisions we made at her passing and going forward.
Leslie Knighton, EPC