Sunday, August 30, 2015

What I Learned From My Parents Death

Last week we had a memorial service and buried my parents.  I have written about losing them and how much they were loved.  I didn't take any pictures that day because carrying a camera around changes my experience in situations.  I look for good shots instead of being in the moment.  That day, I wanted to be in the moment.  This blog is not going to be a recount of the day, but some of the things I learned.  Not necessarily what I learned from them about being a good person, but what I learned about what needs to be done when a person dies.  It is easy to be taken advantage of because of the situation.  Who knew that a regular bouquet of flowers can cost $40, but the same bouquet can cost $80 when they are for a funeral.  I learned from my husbands family that bereavement rates with an airline cost a lot more that regular rates.   I am so lucky I had to learn these things as an older person myself, and that I had my parents in my life for much longer than most people.  I also realize that the job of funeral directors is to do a lot of the work we took on, but we didn't have that option.  If you work with a funeral home, many of the costs we had are built into the final service cost.  I was just over whelmed for the moment.  Then I had to realize that we had to tackle one thing at a time.  I was fortunate to have a sister who did some of the arranging.

I may have learned some other things, but these are some that stand out in my mind.

1.  Talk about everything before your loved ones actually die.  The first thing is have a Power of Attorney and know their wishes as far as health care decisions.  If they don't want to be resuscitated, then have that information available or hospitals go to extraordinary means to save a life.  My parents had DNR's, which was fortunate.

2.  They had paid for their funeral expenses in advance.  We knew what they wanted, or at least I thought we did.  A few details were left up in the air, so if there are specific wishes, be sure to write them down.  When the time comes, the thinking process slows down a bit.

3.  Have enough money set aside to pay for all the extra expenses.  My parents moved from the area they lived and from the area they set up their pre-paid cremation.  We had to pay for transportation to the crematorium which amounted to $300.  We had to pay $150 for a cremation permit, $40 for the coroner to sign the death certificate, $20 for one death certificate and more for each additional copy.  We had to pay for a local funeral home to hold my dad's body until it could be transported.  That was $300.  We had to pay $250 for the cemetery to dig a small hole for the urn.  It was a companion urn so we didn't have to pay for two.  The cemetery director said we got two for the price of one.   Even though my parents had a grave marker that was engraved with their name and birth dates, we had to pay an additional $150 each to have their death date engraved.  That equals almost a $1000 extra dollars that wasn't pre-paid.  This is in Central Wisconsin.  It would probably be a lot more in other areas of the country.

4.  If the loved one is on Social Security, you have to pay back the money for the month they died.  My mom passed away on the 31st of January but we had to pay back the entire amount of her Social Security disbursement for the month of January.  Dad was the same.  We also had to pay back a second federal pension for the month he died.  I didn't realize that happened until we experienced it.

5.  There are a lot of decisions.  If you have a service, you need to know what kind of service, any special music and any special verses or poems, who will officiate the service and if there is a meal you need to estimate how many people to expect.   This usually has to happen within a few days.  We were fortunate to have more than a month to plan this part.

6.  Make sure there is a will, so any stipulations are in writing.  So many families come to blows at the death of a loved one.  It seems so strange to me that when someone dies, the family mourns and is sad together and then later they fight about the dumbest things and never speak again.  The person who dies would be so sad to know what can happen over a ring or a piece of silverware.  I'm afraid the world is a selfish place, and a lot of people only think of themselves and not the whole picture. My parents took care of gifting family members things well in advance of their passing.  We probably wouldn't fight, but this way that won't be tested.  
We had disposed of my parents house and most of their belongings well in advance.  That was a huge undertaking, but it was done before my parents passed away.  Some families are left with a lifetime of possessions to decide what to do with.  I feel sorry for my children if they would have to deal with all of our stuff now.  It is something I need to consider.  Hopefully I have a lot of life left, but it is the reality of getting older.  How many possessions does a person actually need?  I need to sit down with my daughters and make some important decisions.

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