The Vault Regulars

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

That Taboo word - Death and beyond

I've had numerous conversations with myself about should i be posting this issue here on my outdoor blog or let it pass.
In the end i decided that it is an issue worth making folks aware of and maybe our experiences will help others when this event comes unwillingly into there lives.
As readers of my blog will know, Mum passed away a month ago. (Hence the reason for the lack of posts). Dad passed away 2 years ago.
When you are at that point where you have lost both parents it's a very strange feeling and one that i must admit i wasn't expecting. The void is massive.
There is an emptiness i feel,  knowing that you cannot just give them a call or pop round for 10 minutes. To have that quick disagreement that all parents and their kids have.
Even though the kids are now adults, they are still wrong.

  When one parent dies, the family get together and help the remaining parent sort out what needs to be done, but the final decisions lie with the remaining parent. When the 2nd parent dies then everything has to be done by the kids and you just don't realise how traumatic and stressful that event is because it's all so final, the end of an era. A complete clear out.
When Mum died after her operation for a burst bowel, we walked out of the hospital almost completely at a loss of what to do next.
  Because she died in hospital there had to be a post mortem. We didn't particularly want this as we thought she had been through enough but the coroner has to know that the death has not been caused negligently during the operation. It had to go ahead and you have to wait for the results before you start to organise anything.
Then there is the death to register and the forms to fill in for the local council and the dept of works and pensions.
Then a form has to be acquired from the registrar or the coroners office and passed to the funeral directors so that they can acquire the body and make arrangements.
Once this has been cleared the funeral can be arranged, the church procured, the vicar organised, the music for the service, the wake,  flowers, charities etc.

  Usually a lot of this has been decided prior to death but not always as some people just cannot bring themselves to go through it and talk about it. And worse still is the clearing of the house and estate.
  Mum and Dad didn't talk much about death and didn't leave a Will so we were pretty much in the dark as to what to do.

 The house they lived in was rented and they were not well off by any means so we didn't have the sale of a property or probate to go through. So this was a big plus but on the minus side we have had to clear the house within a month or so.
  They had lived in the house for 53 years and believe it or not i doubt that they had ever thrown anything away. The things we found took us back, literally.
Every Birthday card, Christmas card, Get well soon card that they had received had been collected. Lots of Christmas paper carefully remove from presents had been neatly folded and saved. Morrisons and Tesco plastic bags the same. Why? Why had they saved all this for all those years.
I understand sentimental value but how many times did they ever see the light of day? Never is the answer.
 We found lots of broken appliances, toasters, kettles, hair driers, hoovers, lamps. They didn’t work, none of them. I can just hear my dad now “ Don’t throw that out i will fix it when the weather gets a bit better” and yes it never got fixed it just gathered dust and i mean dust.
Bits of wood that would come in handy one day had been stored under the stairs. Did it ever come in handy? No.
  Old newspapers of big events, the ending of the 2nd world war, Churchills death, the 1st man on the moon, Charles and Diana’s wedding and the like.
  Every bill, receipt, even mundane item like bus tickets had been kept in envelopes, just in case. Just in case of what? God knows.
I even found TV licences from 1957 onwards. That Justin Case has a lot to answer for.
 One good thing i found was the Manchester United programme v Sheffield, 19th Feb 1958, the match after the Munich Air crash. It has a team sheet but there is no team shown.

 I could go on and on but the point of this post is this, death is not just an old age thing it can happen at any time. There are no rules. We tend to push it away like it doesn’t affect me. But it could and we need to make sure that we have things in place for when that times comes.
DO make a Will out, even a simple one that you can update over the years, don’t leave it till the last minute because you might miss it.
DO specify who you want to be the administrator of the Will.
DO let your kids/family know what you want to happen to you. Burial, cremation, other.
DON’T be afraid to talk about it.
DON’T hoard tons of absolute rubbish for your family to send to the tip or charity shops. Lofts, cellars, sheds, garages, have a good clear out while you can. It’s not nice for the family to have to do this, believe me. You know it makes sense.
DO find out about what happens when somebody dies BEFORE it affects you. You can’t take it all in at that point when a loved one passes away. I know it may sound morbid but i do wish i had done this.

 Well i am going to leave it here. I think i have made my point and i do hope it has been helpful or at least an eye opener into a world that we don’t necessarily want to be involved with. Well not too soon anyway.


Laura said...

Thanks for this post - it must have been difficult to write and brought home some truths to me reading it. I hope some memories you can cherish stay with you.

Anonymous said...

Best wishes, Alan.

We've finally made a will!

selfpowered said...

Alan, my heart goes out to you and yours. Sifting through the accumulation of years is a crushing thing. All the best, all in good time.

Unknown said...

A worthwhile post that - thanks.

I'd add to your Do List, although I haven't quite figured out the best way to do it yet.

Do leave a list of key personal data - passwords etc.


AlanR said...

Laura. I thought about it a lot before putting fingers to keyboard. I hope it was informative and not morbid.

Robin, Good on you.
David, Thanks for that.
Brian that’s a good point and one that would affect the likes of “Us”. But didn’t affect my parents. They thought logging on was a lumberjack.

Alan Sloman said...

Many thanks for writing, Alan. When my father died, leaving my Mum on her own a few years back now, I took on the responsibility of arranging the funeral. I was really surprised at just how much work there was to do. Fortunately my sisters organised everything else.
Mum is now in a care home and her house has been sold to pay for her care but clearing the house was just as you have described - an amazing amount of 80 years of "stuff".
It really IS a good idea to talk about what is going to happen with the remaining parent - we found that Mum was really open about it.
As for preparing a will - that really is good advice (I think I last looked at mine twenty years ago - and I certainly ought to change it now!)
Thanks Alan - a really useful piece.

AlanR said...

Hi Alan,
I am no different to anyone else, i put this subject on the back burner too long. It’s just so easy to sidestep it and why should we leave our families with a mess to clear up. It’s just not fair.
I cannot imagine what 80yrs of stuff would be like if our 53 was anything to go by.
I’m pleased it has spurred you on to checking out the will.
Make the most of your Mum while you still can, there was so much i wanted to tell mine but never did.

Unknown said...

I'm 35. My parents are late 70's and late 60's. I know that there will come a point where I am going to experience what you've just described and I don't relish the prospect. Your blog is your place to write whatever you wish and those who want to read it will do so. There's nothing I can say to assuage what you are feeling right now so I won't engage in empty platitudes except to say that I hope that, in time, the pain diminishes and the memories begin to fill the void. Thanks for taking the time to write what cannot have been an easy post - it personifies what is good about the outdoor blogging community.

AlanR said...

Thanks Maz.
I posted this with somebody like yourself in mind. To bring home what is after all going to happen to us all. If my words can bring your thoughts slightly forward and you take stock before the worst happens then it will have been worth writing it.
I now know that it’s a reality that needs to be faced up to and not put to one side until it’s inevitable. Thanks again.

Phreerunner said...

I was with my mum yesterday. She is the number 1 reader of my blog, the writing of which is thus directed. She's 85 and recovering from a Xmas bout of shingles, so not in as top form as she could be. I've encouraged her to write a bit about some of her treasured possessions. "Beatties - 1949", or "Your grandfather's workshop - 1930's" - that sort of thing. She will delight in the exercise. It'll make the difference between selling/renovating/keeping some items when she eventually has to move to a smaller place. A lot of stuff has been handed on already...
Your points are well made. I'm a hoarder. Now then, how do I throw away that old computer - need to take the hard disc out first? How?
Ho hum.
Hoping things slowly regain some form of normality for you, Alan. These things no doubt take time.

AlanR said...

Hi Martin,
Singles is dreadful. Sheila’s mum had it a couple of years ago. It sounds good about getting your mum to write. Will she use the PC, my mum wouldn’t.
The things that we hoard for those rainy days only happen in our imaginations. Very rarely do they in reality. Although it can be difficult to throw things away/sell, whatever, it does need to be done as we get older.

Harddrives, I have removed quite a few myself without any difficulty, even though i didn’t know what i was doing. So i am sure that you can do it.

Thanks for your comments Martin, i do feel ok. Its shock, grief, funeral, illness, recovery, Chrismas, New Year, house clearance all at the same time thats been a difficult time, but not all in that order.

Phreerunner said...

Hi Alan
My mum does use the PC - she writes a diary and obviously needs it to read my blog.
Perhaps you'll join us sometime - I'll be posting a link to our 'web update' shortly.
All best wishes

AlanR said...

Hi Martin,
Thats great and good on your mum. I wish i could have got mine to use it but there was no chance. And i don’t know why because she was a secretary in her earlier life.

I’ll try and join you if i can.

-maria- said...

A good post, thanks Alan.

I was 16 when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and 18 or 19 when my father had a by-pass operation. He's also been diagnosed with lymphoma a couple of times since then. They both still live, but at those times I started to think about the inevitable, death. Nowadays it is easy to me to talk about it. Even though I'm "only" 36, I've discussed these issues with my husband. I've also tried to get rid of the rubbish that lies around the place - the problems is that this throwing-away-procedure needs to be repeated at regular intervals ;-) But it's good you reminded about the will; I've been talking about it several times, but have never done one. Should be done soon! I think it's more enjoyable to live when you have prepared for the death - I guess you understand what I mean :)

AlanR said...

Hi Maria,
Thanks for the comments.
Yes, just like all events in life. It’s better to be prepared. After what we have been through this last month i know that to be true.
And its better to talk about it than shy away, as though it ’s never going to affect you.

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