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8 Ways to Get Organized for Life and Death

By Maeve O'Byrne August 23, 2023 Lifestyle

Recently, a client was telling me she’d had some bad health news. Thankfully, on further tests and following check-ups the news wasn’t so bad, but it began a conversation on what she had learned.

We discussed the possible situation of having to undergo further treatment. We talked about what she should do to ensure that she was comfortable, not just with her legal affairs, but also that her wishes would be honoured if she was unable to advocate for herself.

That’s an interesting place to be – at an age when disease and death feels closer, and yet we feel as if we have decades to live.

Death is the ultimate leveller. It comes to us all. We will all die someday, but how we die is up to us. I want to be like that cartoon lady with the martini glass skidding into the abyss, having lived my life the way I want!

Keep Moving

Scientists have said that most of our well known 20th century diseases are man-made. So, heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and most of the chronic respiratory diseases we see today can be prevented through diet and exercise.

Moreover, the exercise does not have to be strenuous! 30 minutes of walking five or six times a week is sufficient for a healthy life.

We should also take responsibility for our mental health. Our perspective on aging, as well as how we value and enjoy our elder years, may be one of the healthiest ways we can age well.

Eat Healthy and Avoid Stress

Scientists also suggest we look at what we put into our mouths. Junk food is death food! We understand the dangers of smoking and excessive alcohol. There are also great benefits to skin health when you eliminate or reduce both habits.

But how do we avoid stress? I would argue that some of the stress we suffer comes from our own mindset – we imagine the worst thing that could happen, rather than how we will manage the issue that is causing us to worry.

Sometimes we need help in learning how to ease or manage stress. Whether it is meditation classes, yoga or therapy, we need to pick what suits each of us.

Be Curious, Be Your Own Health Detective

If you have high blood pressure, rather than just taking pills, look at how you might reduce it naturally. This can be done through stress reduction and increasing your fruit and vegetable intake. The latter is the solution I use which has eliminated my need for medication.

Look at your chemical exposure as well – do you dry-clean your clothes? Perhaps try handwashing instead, or at least, when they come home, hang them outside for a few hours.

Use the speaker on your mobile or a hands-free set, rather than holding it to your head. Check your drinking water and install a filter if it tests positive for carcinogens or hormone disrupters.

Dr. Micheal Greger, author of How Not to Die, believes that all – or the majority – of modern day diseases can be prevented through adopting a plant-based diet. I’ve taken his advice to heart, switching to what is probably a 95% plant-based diet.

All these changes will not prevent me from dying, we can’t escape the inevitable. However, I’m determined to be the healthiest dead person I can be!

And, I want to ensure that when I do go, my affairs are in order. This way, my kids – hopefully while they mourn my loss – will know that I have done everything to make things easier for them: from who gets what, to how I want my life to be celebrated.

In my previous life in the non-profit world, I got to see how not being organized at death can impact those we leave behind.

One of the things I have done to prevent such a situation is have all my papers neatly organized in one place. The box also contains my birth certificate, passport if I am home, Social Insurance (Identity Card) and other important documents I need while living. My kids know where they are, and that should make things a little easier on them when I’m gone.

Write a Will

I’m updating my will and am considering who should be my executor now that my kids have grown.

Should it be a good friend, my lawyer or a financial institution – be sure to research and understand the pros and cons of each, including the financial costs associated with having a professional oversee the distribution of your estate.

Consider a Living Will

An advance healthcare directive outlines what I want to happen to me if I become ill and am unable to communicate my health wishes.

It specifically addresses medical possibilities, such as whether I want artificial respiration, nutrition or water withheld. It can also state whether I wish to spend my last days at home or in a care facility.

Write a Power of Attorney

There are two types of Power of Attorney (POA), one for healthcare and one for finances. A POA for healthcare allows someone else to make my healthcare decisions, but they must be seen to be acting in my best interest.

A POA for finances gives an individual the power to conduct financial transactions on my behalf – I can also state how much leeway they have in their ability to conduct these transactions.

Note Any Special Requests

If you have any special requests, they can be documented separately, or you can include them in your will. These usually have to do with burial wishes.

How would you like your remains to be disposed of? For instance, I wish to be cremated, and a plaque put up in the local cemetery. Perhaps you wish to be buried – have you purchased a plot? Your heirs must know where it is and must have the receipt of your purchase.

What if you want to be cremated? Where would you like your ashes sprinkled?

A local funeral home now offers bio-bags that are then put into beautifully illustrated paper boxes. These boxes can be buried or put into the ocean where both the bags and boxes break down and feed the earth. Part of the changes I’m making to my will are to have one of these when I go!

Write Letters

In addition to any kind of insurance policy, have you written letters to those remaining? Over the years, I have written letters to my children. I store them in my legal box.

How do you want to leave your affairs? If you don’t have a will, what will happen to your assets?

In my province, if I leave no will, the government is responsible for the disposition of my assets and how they will be dispersed. Many countries have a death tax, so think about how this might affect the gifts you leave your heirs.

Most of us don’t want to think about death, but sometimes it’s important to speak and think about those things that make us uncomfortable. When we do, we can ensure that our wishes are respected and followed.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you feel that you are more aware of your mortality now than you were in other stages of your life? Does this realization make you want to make positive changes in your life while you still can? Why or why not? Please share your journey to organizing your affairs in preparation for the end of life.

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Another good thing to do is put a POD or TOD on every bank account, CD, Investment Accounts, IRA’s, etc. ensuring they won’t go thru probate thereby saving time and money for your heirs. You can also prepay your cremation or funeral expenses.

Eileen Johnson

My mother recently passed on. She did not have a Will and would not discuss her wishes. Unfortunately, her husband told everyone that everything was his and that my mom spent all her money and had nothing left! I wish I just had that cracked glass candle we used to light together……. I tried to respect that she had a difficult time discussing her after death wishes. I suggest anyone in this situation push a little harder along with the respect so that you can honor that person in the way that they wanted.

The Author

Maeve O’Byrne is an entrepreneur, coach and facilitator. She is passionate about helping women through change in their personal life and in their careers. She studies our adaptation to the gift of longevity and is determined to alter the perception of ageism and change the conversation from negative to positive. Visit her website here

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