Have that difficult conversation

23 June 2015

Helping loved ones plan for death

My mother, Betty Sue Brown Adams, passed away on June 17. She’d been living with Parkinson’s Disease for years and the end of her life was swift and peaceful. My father, brothers, and I took great comfort in that.

One other source of comfort was the pre-planning we did back in 2006, when my mother was 73 and relatively healthy. I had just taken a two-day estate organizing workshop from Jeanne Smith of Exit Stage Right. One day was on helping people organize their affairs prior to death. The other day was on helping people organize after the death of a loved one.

That workshop was in California and I headed straight up to Walla Walla, Washington, to visit my parents. I asked them to help me in my training by going through the pre-death organizing process. The conversations were actually pretty easy and, believe it or not, we had a little fun going through the Exit Strategies workbook that Jeanne created and sells.

Nine years later, that planning paid great dividends after my mother passed away. That very night, we pulled out the workbook and pored over the pages in which my mother had specified her desires for the details of her memorial service (down to the flowers and music), burial, and obituary.

Those pages were absolutely invaluable the day after my mother’s passing, when my father and I went to the funeral home. We did not have to speculate what my mother would have wanted. And thanks to the workbook, the obituary practically wrote itself.

The workbook also provides a handy checklist of things to do after a death, as well as people to inform.

My father and I have agreed to go through the workbook again and make sure his desires and other information (like his financial account information) are up to date.

I urge you to consider discussing these details with your loved ones. Jeanne’s workbook is a terrific tool, but any information you gather will be helpful. It can be a difficult discussion to have, but it’s much easier to have it while folks are healthy. Since my mom died, my dad has expressed over and over how grateful he is that we did it. (I overheard him on the phone brag to someone that they worked with a professional organizer to do this planning.)

The pre-planning we did made a difficult time much easier. It’s yet another way being organized can be beneficial.

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Comments

I am so sorry to hear of your mother’s passing but am glad to know of the workbook for myself and family. Thinking of you and your family.
Sarah

Sarah Ressler Jun 23, 02:45 PM

My condolences with you and your family. Hope you find peace of mind and solace to your hearts.

Nacho Eguiarte Jun 23, 11:21 PM

So sorry for your loss. Pray that your family can draw on peace from God, and never feel untethered from your loss. What a great tool that workbook must be … thinking how that fits in with genealogy, a checklist of what to discover or share before one passes. Timely with upcoming family reunions and summer trips back home!

Suzan Jun 24, 09:59 AM

I would also like to send you my condolences on your Mothers passing: wish I had been able to have this conversation when my parents were alive, but (partially) their upbringing and my upbringing made this almost impossible. (Father born 1911 and mother 1929)

Hope that your family share your positive mental attitude and can still smile and chuckle over some good memories about your Mothers healthy happy years before her illness scythed her.
Peace to you all
Jane

Jane Jun 26, 12:38 AM

Janine, please accept my condolences on the loss of your mother, and my thanks for sharing your experience as an important reminder to those of us who need to have – or continue – that conversation with our own parents.

Janet Barclay Jul 3, 02:23 PM

Thanks so much, everyone, for your kind comments!

Janine Adams Jul 3, 02:34 PM

My heartfelt sympathy for the loss of your Mom. May good memories bring comfort for and your family

Peg Sharp Jul 15, 12:36 PM

Thanks so much, Peg.

Janine Adams Jul 15, 03:28 PM

Janine, I just read this and I want to off my sympathy. This is something that I have not talked to my parents about, but I will think about doing it now.

Kathleen Dunn Jul 21, 07:47 PM

Thank you, Kathleen! The conversation can be tough to initiate, but you’ll be glad you did it. We had a lot of laughter during the planning and there were a few surprises as well.

Janine Adams Jul 22, 09:42 AM

Janine, Condolences for your family’s loss, and thank you for sharing this information. We joke in my family about “the death tour”, in which my parents show us the places in the house where to find this information, and I feel stressed about remembering it all or not knowing something that turns out to be important. Also, I have not done this planning for myself. So, today I ordered the workbook that your family used and was pleased to learn that it is currently on sale for $40 off the regular price. Thanks, again.

Laura Steffen Jul 28, 02:06 PM

Laura, that’s great. And I’m the glad the workbook was on sale! Whatever the price, it’s worth it. Thanks for letting me know.

Janine Adams Jul 29, 10:08 AM

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About Janine

Janine Adams

Hello! I’m Janine Adams — a certified professional organizer based in St. Louis, and the creator of Peace of Mind Organizing®.

I love order, harmony + beauty, but I believe that the way that you feel about yourself and your home is what truly matters.

If you’re ready to de­clutter with a purpose and add more ease to your life, you’ve found the right blog — and you’ve found the right gal.

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