Re: The Shuffle Off

1

its mostly annoying being born about 1 century before the immortality drugs are created. what was that Arthur C Clarke book about being the last generaiton.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 02-25-10 11:13 PM
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I also like that "kick off" can mean to start, or your demise.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 02-25-10 11:34 PM
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I discuss it with my mom on a semi-regular basis. She usually broaches the conversation; as a hospice-trained in-home therapist it's something that she thinks about fairly often. It is a good idea to have the conversation, as hard as they can be. I know now that I'll be in charge of making the health decisions (the joy of being the elder child) should she be unable to and her husband no longer with us - and I feel like I am fairly well versed in her preferences. (Although I suspect that I will be a huge mess and really despise thinking about it.)

Most macabre setting for one of these discussions was in a cemetery (we went to look at the old graves and because there was some rare bird or another there) - but at least I know now what she wants, all the way down to what to do with her earthly remains. And she knows it for me, as well, just in case. (This is of course the flip side, and I think just as important.)


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 12:25 AM
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So, my recommendation, Stanley, is that you take them to a cemetery, wander around, and then start asking them questions. So, does that head stone look nice to you? By the way, how do you feel about DNRs?

(Ok, don't do any of that. I've no real idea how to start the conversation other than by doing it; perhaps even mentioning that you saw this clip might be the way in.)


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 12:27 AM
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The sole redeeming feature of my aunts' and uncles' appalling health is that death has been in the foreground of a lot of family conversations, which has helped start these conversations with my parents, who are both very practical and, thank god, very healthy. It's still really tough to talk about, and I haven't been able to hold calmly to the idea that my parents are going to die someday for long enough to hash things out properly and honestly. At least sounding them out briefly but repeatedly gives me a firmer grasp of what they really want and what's less settled in their minds. It's a start.

Stanley, you've talked about wanting to get your grandparents' stories before they die. Could talking about that project with your parents be a way into the conversation?


Posted by: Gabardine Bathyscaphe | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 12:50 AM
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For as long as I can remember, my dad has said he's going to kill himself at 70. He's been a long-standing member of Dignity in Death (used to be the Voluntary Euthanasia Society), and hangs out at alt.suicide.holiday. He's going to be 65 this summer, and 70 doesn't feel a million miles away - my baby will only be 12, ffs.

Killing yourself when you're perfectly healthy just because you once said you would would be stupid (and I'm hoping he agrees with that!), but if he were ailing or going senile or whatever, then I'm quite comfortable with the idea of doing whatever he wanted to help him die. Should talk to him about DNR - can imagine he would be fucking furious if we let him be resuscitated and he wasn't all there afterwards.

My mum on the other hand, is just going to have to live forever.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 1:21 AM
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My parents occasionally try, but I just shut down. Fortunately they're in very good health, my main fear is avalanches (Ari once recommended that people not ski for fear of serious leg injuries - I've known a lot more people who've died than who've had serious injuries - the back country is not a safe environment, at least half of my mom's student era mountain buddies have died of various mountain causes). My dad had a very bad leg break in May, and recently when I asked how the rehab is going he mentioned that he'd just done 37K on x country skis, but he's not quite back to where he was. My mom makes him look like a slacker. My other big fear is Alzheimer's. I saw my dad's mom go through that, and it really, really, sucked. On the other hand my mom's dad lived into his mid nineties and was in great shape up through his late eighties, and only really lost it in the last months.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 1:30 AM
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Killing yourself when you're perfectly healthy just because you once said you would would be stupid

It would, and from what you've said in the past your dad is not a stupid guy, so I wouldn't worry unduly. My dad said the same thing, but he lived quite happily to 88, and only went downhill much in the last few months. If you're really concerned, make sure he has stuff to do when/if he retires. More people die of boredom IME than is generally believed.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 1:47 AM
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9

Pets are sent to the farm; people buy it.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 3:32 AM
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9 was sort of building off of 2. On the actual question, one of my grandmothers had a living will and the other was always in discussion about care with my mom and my aunts and uncles during the last few years of her life. Both, fortunately, were conscious and able to make decisions at the ends of their lives. I suppose my sister and I are hoping for the same with our parents, as we haven't discussed it too much, though it's getting time to do that.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 3:43 AM
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My mom has told me to shoot her in pretty much any instance of her getting very ill. She's not really joking; her fear of doctors is that strong. This does not make this conversation easier to prepare for.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 4:46 AM
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My mother made a living will. Seriously, I can't tell you how much that helped. I don't know if such documents are taken seriously by the medical profession in the US, but if they are, the best thing you can do for all concerned is to persuade your parents to make one and lodge it with somebody who will respect it.

It's hard enough seeing your parents across the Styx without having to referee arguments between doctors who have different ideas of the right thing to do.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 5:00 AM
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We've never talked about it in my family, although both my parents are very healthy, and keep fit. Neither are that old, either. My dad just turned 60, and my mum is still in her 50s. Thankfully, there's never been any protracted illness anywhere that I'm aware of. My paternal grandfather died instantly (although he'd been a bit frail before), and my paternal grandmother, took a couple of months to die from an illness, but she wasn't in great pain, and she was compos mentis throughout so any wishes she might have expressed could have been honoured.

My maternal grandfather, otoh, is 96 next week , and still doesn't need a walking stick. I've no idea what his wishes are, but I expect my uncle would know.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 5:07 AM
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Important topic, and yes a Living Will (at any age-- everyone should have one) plus discussion is invaluable.

However, I kind of want to broach the subject but don't know how. Is this the same Stanley who was observed establishing that his parents are approximately the same age as a certain commenter, or another Stanley? Just checking. k thx bai.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 5:10 AM
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A feature of Living Wills that I like is that it provides a framework for talking about these things. My mom got one from somewhere, perhaps online, and everyone in the family got one to read, and then later we all sat down together and talked through the different scenarios contained in it and wrote down what each of us would want in that particular situation. So it focussed our minds and the conversation on practical, real-life questions instead of just a general discussion of death and stuff. I think it made the discussion both much more useful and much easier to actually do.

My own feelings are against extraordinary measures to prolong my life, especially if there's little or no mental activity. After that I'll be dead, so I don't really care all that much what's done regarding funeral arrangements. But spend as little as possible and harvest anything useful or let med students learn on me, and cremate the rest. The funeral is for the living, not me, so while my preference is for the simple, feel free to do other things regarding that if you think they'll bring comfort or solace to the bereaved. My parents and I pretty much agreed on everything, but something that surprised me was the differences between us and my brother and SIL. Given that, it was nice to have everything discussed openly and written down. I don't think it will prevent all disagreements between us about end of life care and funeral arrangements, but it at least set the parameters of the ballpark.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 5:47 AM
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And I went into such detail about myself in the above post because I'm planning on turning all these decisions about me over to the Unfoggedtariat.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 5:48 AM
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My own feelings are against extraordinary measures to prolong my life, especially if there's little or no mental activity.

"He's done nothing but comment on Unfogged for the last week."
"OK, pull the plug."


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 5:54 AM
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17: Exactly!


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 6:01 AM
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One word comments *do not* count as evidence of mental activity.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 6:02 AM
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Oops. If I ever lose my mad reading comprehension skillz, just kill me.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 6:04 AM
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15: My small experience of Living Wills is that what looks like great clarity and certitude in the living room will seem be pretty goddamn open-ended in the event. Still much better than the alternative.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 6:10 AM
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21: Right, that's what I figure. And I was in law school at the time so I was pretty attentive to how much room for interpretation there actually was despite the apparent clarity and certitude of the language. But having the document to look at did make it much easier to begin a discussion about the issues, and like I said, at least define the parameters of the ballpark better for all of us.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 6:14 AM
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My dad's sister (my aunt) died unexpectedly last May. She was 68 years old. Her paperwork was disorganized and it was difficult to get the needed information. I know--I was in her house hours after she passed. So I talk to my dad regularly about this--mostly about organizing insurance papers, plans for his property, etc., but not plans on when to smothering him with a pillow. I usually talk about this when he visits me. We joked at his last visit that I didn't talk about him dying until we stopped at Starbucks on the way to the airport. I also send him links about organizing his estate.

Funny enough, I don't talk to my mom about this and my parents are still married.


Posted by: Michelle in AZ | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 6:34 AM
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24

la la la la la la I can't hear you la la la la


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 6:37 AM
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Charley's lack of hearing is a clear indication his quality of life is too low for us to allow him to continue to live.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 6:39 AM
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I have a very clear idea of both of my parents' general wishes (minimal heroic life-extension measures, especially if they're not compos mentis enough to be making their own decisions). And they're both right around seventy, so not terribly old, and both very healthy, so this doesn't seem like an imminent problem.

But I should nag them about living wills.

What terrifies me isn't so much medical decisionmaking, it's the possibility of a slow transition into age-related dementia of one sort or another. Neither has shown any sign whatsoever of anything of the sort. But the idea of first identifying that either one of them was incapable of handling their own affairs competently, and then taking over those affairs, seems horrifyingly difficult.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 6:51 AM
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My mother has a living will; my brother and I both know what she wants, despite the fact that she's currently in great health. Probably helps that my father died when he was... three months younger than I am right now.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 6:57 AM
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26: What terrifies me isn't so much medical decisionmaking, it's the possibility of a slow transition into age-related dementia of one sort or another.

A friend of mine went out and bought Iris after seeing it in the theater--an act for which I give her endless shit (she has of course never watched it again). I tell her that it is a time bomb; 20+ years from now she'll come across it, have no memory of what it is about and sit down to watch it (or maybe put it in the toaster).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 7:16 AM
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My parents have had living wills for ages, and in the case of my father it was, you know, enacted or whatever. My father, who had been in the hospital for a couple months by the time he died, and in and out of the hospital for the year before that, had a fairly shitty quality of life at that point. He was already in the ICU (moved there from a regular floor after nurses, tired of his fear, juiced him a little too well to get him to shut up one night -- the doctor told us this is what had happened!) and when his respiration started going wonky again, the doctor said, well, we can intubate or, you know, not. And my mother said, "Not." So the call then goes out to all the relatives and siblings etc to get their asses to the hospital. BUT, while my mom was still there by herself (except for my unconscious pops), some other doctor comes in the room, informs my mother that he is an "Indian fundamentalist," and tells her that he could never do what she is doing, because it is MURDER. He was trying to devastate her, and he did, but not til later*, because at the time all he did was get her so angry that she told him to get the fuck out.

*Except later my aunt-the-nun was there to reassure her, Oh Jesus Christ, of course it's not murder.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 7:29 AM
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29: Christ what an asshole.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 7:31 AM
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You know who sucks? Fundamentalists.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 7:32 AM
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32

an "Indian fundamentalist,"

What does that even mean?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 7:33 AM
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33

IT MEANS HE GETS RESULTS, YOU STUPID CHIEF!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 7:36 AM
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32. I think this is the Johnsonian use of "fundament" as a polite synonym for "arse".


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 7:37 AM
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34: Since he self-described as an "Indian fundamentalist", that actually shows an impressive degree of self-awareness on his part.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 7:42 AM
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32: Yeah, my mother asked me that very question. For about two seconds I wondered if somehow he had meant the assassinating Gandhi sort of Indian fundamentalist, but quickly decided that he just meant he was a Christian fundamentalist who was Indian. This was later confirmed -- or, well, the terminology was -- by a friend who was raised in an Indian fundamentalist church.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 7:42 AM
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36: Ah. I assumed he meant "Hindu".

I'm so racist.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 7:42 AM
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The existence of hindu fundamentalists is a hotly contested topic, but anyhow you won't learn about it from this article, which appears to have been written by the totally not-at-all-racist not-fundamentalists themselves.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 7:47 AM
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My mother has repeatedly said that she wants absolutely no heroic measures, and has a perfect horror of being kept alive while permanently unconscious. I have no idea what my father thinks. This year my mother will be the same age that her mother was when she died. Thankfully, both folx are in pretty decent health right now. I should really get on them about living wills. I doubt very much that their last wills are up to date either.

My main worry about all this, frankly, is that my sister will have some kind of ridiculous justification for doing the exact opposite of what everyone else wants to do when it comes to making end of life care decisions for my folx. Being extraordinarily stubborn and contrarian is sort of a hobby that pays for itself with her. Additionally, she has a complicated middle-child syndrome thing about being given short shrift all her life (which is ridiculous), and so I'm REALLY not looking forward to whatever divying up the estate tasks lie ahead of us. Frankly, I'd kinda like my parents to make her the executor of their wills, because if anyone else has to do it she will make their life a living hell, as only a liberal minister can.

As for myself, I'm hoping to be ambulatory enough that I can just walk into the woods and die of exposure when the time comes. Or if I died on the barricades during an insurrection, that would be fine too. Mostly I fret about my funeral. My family is going to want some kind of Xtian funeral, and it seems harsh not to allow them that, but for myself and my friends I'd rather have a party in a union hall. Hmph. Could always do both, but then a lot of folx would want to go to both, and that seems like a lot to put people through.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 7:49 AM
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37: Like I said, this is what I thought (briefly). Racist! (But temporally less so than you, M/tch.)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 7:49 AM
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Oudemia, your mother should have told him "It's okay. He's a gay abortionist."


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 7:49 AM
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When I think Hindu fundamentalists, I think Hare Krishnas, but that might say more about my near-total ignorance of Hinduism than anything else.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 7:50 AM
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ISKCON is more like Hindu Mormons. There's no love lost between them and the Hindutva, from what I have heard.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 7:54 AM
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41: Heh. There was much esprit d'escalier afterwards with that whole situation. Or things rather more corporeal than esprit in the case of my brothers who wanted to find him and punch him in the face. Argh! I get so mad thinking about it -- he wasn't even a doctor of my father's! I wonder if he just roams the hall of the hospital looking for DNRs that might be activated.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 8:05 AM
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My family is going to want some kind of Xtian funeral, and it seems harsh not to allow them that, but for myself and my friends I'd rather have a party in a union hall. Hmph. Could always do both, but then a lot of folx would want to go to both, and that seems like a lot to put people through.

Nah, that's standard -- quick dignified burial/cremation/memorial service in a church or funeral home, and a party/wake with drinking and food and funny stories about you elsewhere, people show up for whichever or both.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 8:06 AM
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44: It does seem like something that would, ideally, be complained about loudly and vociferously to the hospital and whoever else appropriate. It doesn't seem like even remotely responsible behavior for a doctor.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 8:09 AM
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45: Well, it wouldn't really be a traditional wake, exactly. But I wouldn't be too put out if it were. I just want people to sing good radical songs.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 8:16 AM
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Christ that Hindutva article sucks. Oh, how the current arrangements in India are so unfair to Hindus.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 8:18 AM
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We are very aware of this, since my father went through so many medical issues in the 2 years before his death (cancer, stroke, coma, recovery, complications, radiotherapy, decline). I must redo my mother's Enduring Power of Attorney (they did one for each other) which covers financial as well as care issues - rather than being a living will it appoints persons to make the decisions. This means the family don't have to have the person made a Ward of Court to get access to their property (if you're thinking "Bleak House" you're not too far off, the procedure is mainly governed by the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871). Also they'd otherwise have to apply to court to get permission to sign the person up for the govt. Nursing Home Scheme (the State will pay for your nursing home bills in exchange for 80% of your income and 5% per annum of your capital, capped for your home at 15% after 3 years).

I'd agree with JPS; having gone through the palliative care decisions we had to make for my father, I think now that there's only so much you can decide in advance. We had some very tricky issues about e.g. (re)starting tube feeding - we might not have had the option of taking it out again, but our hydration options were disappearing.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 8:27 AM
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But it's got footnotes, so it's fine, no 'citations needed'.

My lifelong atheist grandmother got a Jewish funeral since my completely non-practicing vaguely believing uncle wanted the comfort of ceremony. My lifelong agnostic dad went along, but was a bit uncomfortable since my grandmother had always had very little use for religion, except as an enemy back in her days as first a democratic radical left wing activist, and then a Stalinist one. She'd mellowed on the subject after her disillusionment with Communism, but still wasn't a fan.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 8:29 AM
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I thought my parents had been very responsible about this, gradually giving away possessions and deducting their value from the inheritance that each of their eight children will receive.

At least, I thought they were being responsible until they asked me to be executor. First off, if I were them, I'd be my third choice. (Choice Number One was in Iraq at the time, and now that he's back, safe and sound, maybe I can fob this off on him.)

Worse than that, when I actually inquired about the details of their wills, they mentioned they hadn't updated them for 47 years - since their wills are pretty simple, this wouldn't be a problem, except my youngest brother was born 46 years ago.



Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 8:56 AM
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My Mom has repeatedly told me that in the event she develops Alzheimers she wants me to kill her. Not joking, either. She better not get it, as that's a position that'd leave me wallowing in guilt no matter what I did.

I'm pissed that one of the most humane parts of HCR was eliminated thanks to goddamn "death panel" hysteria. Lack of a living will often puts families through hell. The insane fight for every last second of gasping, wheezing misery by an unconscious drug addled patient helps nobody, prolongs the suffering of the bereaved as well as the patient, wastes valuable resources, and provides absolutely no benefit beyond a few days or months of denial by immature selfish relatives.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:00 AM
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God, guns and denial made America great!


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:04 AM
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54

I've discussed this with my kids and DE, and have all the papers on file with then and my primary care MD. I have been consistent over the years about not wanting any treatments that don't have a very good chance of returning me to a reasonably functional state.

I'm not specifying a particular age but I don't intend to get bed-ridden like my mother and dependent on three shifts of aides, nor Alzy like my father-in-law. Pills, helium & plastic bag, or gun will serve, depending on what's available at the time, though the gun is inconsiderately messy if used inside. The kids fully expect it; they'll be sad for a time but it won't be any sort of shocker.

What bothers me most about the idea of oblivion is not finding out how so many of the stories turn out. Do computers ever reach consciousness? Does the US turn itself around? Is there a war with China? Fusion energy? Bionics? ???


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:14 AM
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54: When we were little kids my brother and I decided that one of the coolest features of heaven must be that you find out all the answers to all the mysteries like if the Bermuda Triangle is real and what happened to Amelia Earheart and did Lizzie Borden do it or not.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:18 AM
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My Mom has repeatedly told me that in the event she develops Alzheimers she wants me to kill her. Not joking, either. She better not get it, as that's a position that'd leave me wallowing in guilt no matter what I did.

Do we have the same mom, togolosh? I think I've posted here about my mom always worrying that she has Alzheimers, and I have to prove to her she's ok by telling her (true) stories about all the stupid things I do.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:20 AM
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My Mom has repeatedly told me that in the event she develops Alzheimers she wants me to kill her.

I don't want to get too specific, but we're dealing with this situation right now in our family. The complicating factor is that Alzheimer's progression, especially if diagnosed early, can be slowed down to a crawl with the existing approved medications, and the cognitive impairment you're talking about at that point really is quite minor. And there are a lot of promising drugs currently in clinical trials. So really, that diagnosis still allows for a lot of years of good quality of life.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:22 AM
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55: I had similar thoughts about being elected President -- is there a day one briefing where they give you the real scoop about Area 51 and similar?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:23 AM
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we're dealing with this situation right now in our family

Not the killing part, that is. Just the diagnosis.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:23 AM
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57: Oh, ouch, although it sounds as if things aren't too bad. But all my sympathy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:24 AM
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54: helium and plastic bag? Are you sure? Is part of the plan to lighten the mood by delivering your last words in the voice of Mickey Mouse? Or are you intending to float away to Paradise Falls?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:24 AM
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60: All mine too.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:30 AM
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Well, it's not oxygen. So you'd have something to breathe, rather than choking on the bag, but you'd suffocate as fast as if you weren't breathing. I'm not sure exactly why helium -- maybe the lighter-than-air-ness would more reliably exclude oxygen from the bag?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:31 AM
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Get a barbecue grill and put a towel under the door. No muss no fuss.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:35 AM
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My maternal grandfather, otoh, is 96 next week , and still doesn't need a walking stick.

Wow, just wow.

My oldest grandparent (paternal grandmother) died last year at 95 and, in her case, 93-95 was a lot more difficult than the previous years (now that I think about it, she was under hospice supervision for the last three years of her life so . . .).

She did pretty well though. She didn't spend much time in hospitals, and was able to live at home (with assistance).

But, still, watching her made me think that you need good genes, good luck, and a lot of willpower to make it past 90. It's hard.

I'd rather have a party in a union hall.

Request to have "Bury Me In My Overalls" played at your memorial. That should send the right message (what a great song).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:37 AM
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Do we have the same mom, togolosh?

Indeed we do! She loves me more, by the way.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:37 AM
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55: All those things Leonard Nimoy tried to scare you about on the teevee! (Plus, seriously, nearly ever book I bought from the bookmobile was some dire UNSOLVED MYSTERIES! type thing -- hooking lie detectors up to plants! Bridey Murphy!)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:38 AM
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"Natil' ain't dead,' he said to me,
"Natil' ain't never died.
Where working men go out on strike,
Natil' is at their side,
Natil' is at their side."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:39 AM
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66: You're right! Wah!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:40 AM
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Time Life Books! "A woman falls from a plane. She bounces twice and lives to tell about it!" "What are the secrets of the Ancient Pyramids?" "KILLER BEES!"


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:40 AM
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My wife's friend has a whole setlist written out for her funeral.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:41 AM
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63: There's probably information scattered about the web that justifies helium as a choice, but I'd go with nitrogen - just as effective, and dirt cheap. If price is no object, go with Xenon - not only is it not oxygen, it's also an anesthetic.

I have a well-suppressed urge to buy some Xenon just to try huffing it like whippets. Something about getting high off a Noble Gas just seems so wholesome.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:43 AM
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67, 70: Exactly! The milk and honey and harps and all that are nice, but WE WANT ANSWERS!


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:45 AM
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re: 65

He's not completely without frailty. If he walks for a long time he needs a sit down. We went for a good long walk about 18 months back and about half way he needed a rest. He had a mild stroke a couple of years back, from which he made a full recovery, he's had cataract operations, and is slightly hard of hearing. But yeah, he's pretty amazing. He and I played football with my brother together about 10 years ago, when he was in his late 80s, and the last time I played him at tennis [about 20 years back, so when he was in his mid 70s] he comprehensively thrashed me.

I've linked this before, and it's not a very good scan:

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/82/215119512_733e3d91a9_o.jpg

I think that was taken on his 92nd birthday.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:46 AM
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72: I imagine helium is probably the easiest to obtain (i.e. any party store) and the least likely to cause suspicions.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:47 AM
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74: That's a good picture.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:51 AM
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61 & 63: Helium is easy to get, the tanks are rentable from party supply/balloon places. Given the relative densities, there's no choking sensation from CO2 build-up, and since it's lighter than air all you have to do is weight the bottom edges of the bag to get a reliable way to go, elaborate sealing isn't needed. A couple of the XL Ziplocs or large metalized balloons layered should be rugged enough to do the job.

The Donald Duck voice is an added benefit. I'm seriously thinking of setting up a real-time internet video feed to deliver my last profound thoughts if I can figure out how to make it untraceable for the time needed.

The remains? Cremated and given to my kids to keep in the car trunks for when the roads get icy.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:54 AM
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re: 76

Thanks. I prefer the uncropped original:

http://bit.ly/cldJnE


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:58 AM
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65: Thanks NickS! I had never heard that one before. Good synthesis of folk Xtianity and labor radicalism. I liked the line "Give my suit to Uncle Jake/ He can wear it at my wake" quite a bit. One of the most life-affirming things I've seen was when I was working at the anarchist community center here in the early 90s. A prominent local radical stopped by to drop off a big box of very nice art supplies to go into our Digger-esque Free clothes/food/books/etc. area. They were from his late wife, who was then a year gone or so, and he wanted people to make use of them. I'm afraid I didn't do a good enough job of thanking him. It was kind of a lot to process.

71: Yep, I've been trying to evolve the perfect funeral mix tape for many years now. (And, in a nod to my generation, it would be nice if it COULD be a mix tape, if they haven't banned tape recorders by then.)
Radical wake-type thing:
"The Internationale" (instr. for the beginning, Billy Bragg version later)
"Solidarity Forever"
"You Ain't Done Nothin' If You Ain't Been Called A Red"
"Hallelujah, I'm A Bum"
"I Ain't Scared of Your Jail 'Cause I Want My Freedom"
"The German Band" (satirical WWII song about the occupation of Denmark)
"I Ain't Marchin' Anymore"
"We Shall Overcome"
Plus maybe some dub for people to listen to on the way out.

Xtian:
"Will The Circle Be Unbroken"
"We'll Understand It Better By and By"
"Wings of A Dove"
"How Can I Keep From Singing"
"Battle Hymn of the Republic"
"Beaulah Land"
Plus a couple of my father's hymns


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:01 AM
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Sorry, to clarify, that should be "Dwelling In Beulah Land"


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:02 AM
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The remains? Cremated and given to my kids to keep in the car trunks for when the roads get icy.

Better than kitty litter?



Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:03 AM
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81: Don't you mean "Better as kitty litter!".


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:04 AM
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Oh yeah, I don't want to be found dead in Utah, but other than that, who cares what happens to the remains?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:07 AM
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73: DB Cooper. Did Johnson really fuck Kennedy's throat wound?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:10 AM
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I remember Thurgood Marshall saying he'd leave his job when he was found dead at his desk, shot by a jealous husband. It didn't work out that way, but I admired the sentiment.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:11 AM
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Mysteries I'd like to see solved could fill a book. I really am sad to think that I won't see what happens as far as people figuring it all out at some point. But if I can manage to fight like hell for the living, I guess I can hope that some people will be at least a little inspired to carry on after I'm gone.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:14 AM
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82: The last set of "cremains" I saw looked like the fine white gravel that used to be found in fancy hotel lobby ashtrays. That would work fine for icy roads, but cats can be fussy about changes in their environment.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:14 AM
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I'd like my body to be used in some sort of elaborate prank. Or just sneakily dropped off in some right wing homophobe's bed, dressed in bondage gear.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:16 AM
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87: Maybe someone could steal one of those appliances from the hotel and put a little "Hilton" brand on your ashes in the urn before the service. Everyone would be so confused.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:16 AM
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88: Well, that's the other thing to anticipate: Wouldn't it be great if you could haunt really irritating people, like the Pope or whoever? That would be really fun.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:17 AM
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90: Dibs on Glenn Beck!!


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:26 AM
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Natilo, no "Ballad of Joe Hill"? No "This Land Is Your Land"? No Nina Simone? What sort of a radical funeral do you call that?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:27 AM
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Wasn't some superannuated rockstar, like, Ron Wood or similar, supposed to have snorted his father?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:29 AM
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Keith Richards, but he later denied the rumor, IIRC.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:30 AM
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92: Well, it seems a bit conceited to directly compare myself to Joe Hill in that way. I mean, I expect some people to be sad when I die, and I hope they'll continue organizing, but unless the state really does murder me, which seems increasingly unlikely, I wouldn't want to be presumptuous.

Looking over the list, I do think I need some more Chumbawamba and Clash -- maybe "Poverty Knock" and "Lose This Skin"?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:31 AM
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which seems increasingly unlikely

Dare to dream, Nat.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:36 AM
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95: I will perform my widely hailed drunken caterwaul of "The World Turned Upside Down" (aka The Diggers Song).


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:36 AM
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I'd like to haunt the seats behind home plate at Comiskey Park, and perhaps wander over to the concessions from time to time to perform pranks with the mustard pumps.

I don't have any funeral planned out, but there's one Pixies song that will be too appropriate not to play.


Posted by: Mo MacArbie | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:40 AM
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97: Oh, you totally should! The Diggers (both Winstanley's and Grogan's) were very important to my political development.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:40 AM
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"The World Turned Upside Down"

I was going to complain that, ever since Billy Bragg made part II famous, nobody ever sings part I anymore. But then I couldn't remember whether The Diggers Song was part I or part II.

Interestingly wikipedia doesn't even mention that there is a part I and part II of "The World Turned Upside Down"

I did find this page which collects different versions.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:48 AM
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I liked the line "Give my suit to Uncle Jake/ He can wear it at my wake" quite a bit.

That's one of my favorite lines as well, for the same reason, it evokes such a sense of social connectedness.

I didn't mention in my post but, apparently, Malvina Reynolds wrote that song when her husband was having health problems and was concerned about mortality (my sense, based strictly on third hand reports is that she thought he was worry more than was necessary, but I'm sure she was worried as well).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:50 AM
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No "This Land Is Your Land"?

I confess, the version by Mojo Nixon is one of my favorite. The version by Sharron Jones is good as well.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:52 AM
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There's so much Woody Guthrie to choose from. "Jesus Christ", "Do Re Mi", "I'm Stickin' To The Union", plus the ones he popularized like "Which Side Are You On" and the traditional ones. Deserves more study.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:59 AM
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I mean "Union Maid" of course. Always forget the title of that one for some reason.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 11:09 AM
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Also, it's somewhat offtopic, but I want to put in a plug for "The Dancing Boilerman". It isn't about death, at all, but I recently heard it sung at a retirement party, and I was reminded that it's another good life-affirming song.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 11:12 AM
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102: I love that version, too. He's all Libertarian these days, alas.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 11:18 AM
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I don't know whether or not the state wants to knock Natilo off, but his wake is starting to sound like so much fun that it's becoming tempting to knock him off myself.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 11:20 AM
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I don't know if my mom has a living will, but I think she probably does. In general she's very on top of this sort of thing. She helped her mom do one a few years before she died, and it ended up being very helpful when the time came. I don't think she ever got my dad to do one, although I think she did eventually get him to express some preferences; he basically just never wanted to think about any of this stuff, and was very resistant to talking about it. In the end it didn't make a whole lot of difference for him, but having something in writing probably would have made the process easier to deal with. I should talk to my mom about this, actually, because I know I'm going to be the one who has to deal with this sort of thing if and when it comes up in her case.

When people talk about end-of-life issues they usually mean medical care, resuscitation, and so forth, but I want to emphasize that it's really, really important to think about funeral arrangements too. My mom made all the arrangements for my dad in advance, and it made things very easy when the time came because the choices were mostly made already. Religion is a big help here too; we basically followed Jewish practice whenever there was a choice to make, even though my dad wasn't Jewish. Even for non-believers like us, having that specific guidance made the process much easier. What you really don't want is to go in without an idea of what you want. The funeral-industrial complex is very similar to the wedding-industrial complex, except worse because of the much more compressed time frame and even more emotionally fraught atmosphere. We did fine because we were prepared, but I could tell throughout the process that a family that hadn't thought about any of it and was reeling from an unexpected shock would be easy prey for the many, many opportunities for exploitation built into the system.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 11:21 AM
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I think I've bitched here before that my family sees my law degree as the reason to make me the executor on four different estates. Fuuuuck. Fortunately, they're all organized. My Dad sat me down with his binder of accounts and instructions. He was genuinely surprised when I started crying at the thought of his death. Don't know why he didn't expect that.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 11:33 AM
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Oh yeah, estate planning is important too. This wasn't an issue with my dad, since basically everything he had was owned jointly with my mom, but when my grandmother died the amount of wrangling among her children was pretty surprising, even to them.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 11:36 AM
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the amount of wrangling among her children was pretty surprising, even to them.

One of the things that struck me about going through my grandmother's death was that it really changes the family dynamics when everybody is emotionally exhausted and edgy at the same time.

A big part of my emotional response, after her death was that I was just cranky a lot of the time -- I didn't have any emotional reserves to deal with day to day annoyances. Everybody at work was pretty good about it but it was interesting to notice that all of the family conversations everybody was starting out cranky.

We are normally good at working together as a family, but it was challenging.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 11:42 AM
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110, 111: My one grandmother's death unexpectedly (to me at least) split my mother's side of the family for a decade until several other principals subsequently died. Over what? Nothing very much and several lifetimes of accumulated relatively unvoiced grievance are both equally correct answers. (Of course better estate planning would *not* have solved that dynamic--but its immediate onset, including snarky comments from the freaking pulpit by the minister at the funeral was a bit breathtaking.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 11:52 AM
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My plan is to die while piloting a space ship into a black hole as I am listening to Johnny Cash. I'm hoping I can heroically save a bunch of peoples lives by doing so, like in that movie.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 11:54 AM
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113: Whose shirts do you wear?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 12:01 PM
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77.2 sounds like an exciting new use for chatroulette.
As far as estate planning, given the current functional state of Congress, late December is shaping up to be an exciting time (at least for estates >$2M)


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 12:02 PM
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108: I don't know if my mom has a living will, but I think she probably does.

Just a boring reminder that this does not really work--prior knowledge and communication* necessary. Sometimes things develop slowly, sometimes quickly. Sometimes the principal can help sort it out, sometimes not.

*And it must be ongoing review and communication--I told you about it when I did it 12 years ago** does not generally cut it.

**This comment written by a man whose will mentions property no longer owned and persons no longer living.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 12:14 PM
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The funeral-industrial complex is very similar to the wedding-industrial complex, except worse because of the much more compressed time frame and even more emotionally fraught atmosphere. We did fine because we were prepared, but I could tell throughout the process that a family that hadn't thought about any of it and was reeling from an unexpected shock would be easy prey for the many, many opportunities for exploitation built into the system.

At the very least, have a list of all nearby Ralph's.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 12:16 PM
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116: Oh, no question. As noted at the end of that paragraph, this is something I really need to talk to her about.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 12:18 PM
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I've told my family they can burn me, bury me, or dump me.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 12:21 PM
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Burn me, dump me
Anyway you want me
You got the power, turn off the light


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 12:25 PM
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119: I basically really don't give a crap at all about what is done with my remains, but I've stated preferences to my family because I don't think it's very nice to just dump all the responsibility for choosing everything (e.g. which brand of coffee can to buy) onto them.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 12:33 PM
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Any way you dump me
That's the way you need me
Any way you dump me


Posted by: Mo MacArbie | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 12:50 PM
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This probably won't apply to too many people, but I heard a horror story recently: My friend's father died. His ex-wife (my friend's ex-stepmother) and he had worked out a child-support deal that bypassed the state bureaucracy. But, while he was in his final decline, she'd had a lawyer draft a letter claiming all of the supposedly-owed back-child support payments, which had been made but never officially registered as such, being, at least to her way of thinking, legally just gifts. So now the estate is going to be mired in legal bullshit for awhile, probably leaving very little for anyone, pace Bleak House, because the dead fellow wouldn't spend a little bit of time and money doing things right to start out with. Unbelievable. And my friend's grandmother and aunt are completely unsympathetic about that aspect of things, and just want to get their hands on as much of the stuff as they can, while my friend and his sister sort the mess out.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 1:19 PM
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I really want to avoid having a religious funeral, even though I know I won't be there for it. Hope the occasion doesn't come too soon, since I haven't made any plans.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 1:20 PM
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121: I don't think stating preferences is necessarily just a matter of not dumping responsibility on people. I think for some the sense that they are doing one last thing for the deceased by carrying out final wishes (strongly-held or not) can be actively beneficial.

I don't anticipate that kind of benefit myself, but I imagine that arranging for the requested recording of Petula Clark's "Downtown" to be played at my father's funeral will nevertheless lighten my load a bit when the time comes.


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 1:53 PM
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125: I agree completely.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 2:23 PM
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121: My wife has fairly clear ideas about such things, to which I'm happy to accede, and my son also has a pretty clear understanding of how such things get done. I'm not too worried that they'll be flailing about trying to figure out my wishes.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 2:37 PM
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Sometimes, you may think you've had discussions about these things, and you may think things have been taken care of, and your parents are lying to you.

My mom died early last April, of a cancer that didn't get diagnosed until mid-March. I went to the parents' place for a routine weekend visit and learned Friday night that Mom's doctor thought she had 10 days at the outside. Saturday morning over breakfast they told me they had no Wills, living Wills, DNRs, nothing, so as the could I please do all that today?

Funny, they'd always told us kids they had Wills. My sister felt betrayed by that lie, but I'd never believed them because they always got a little vague when I asked them where the Wills were. (I think at one point they said they were in the glove compartment of the truck?)

Luckily, they lived in Oregon, which has a serviceable standardized Advance Directive form. A few more days and Mom could have opted out of the terminal delirium via Death with Dignity. Alas.


Posted by: BriefestDelurk | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 5:09 PM
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I'm so sorry, B-delurk. It sounds like a whirlwind thing to have to do in the middle of facing the loss of your mom. I hope this past year has eased your grief.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 5:22 PM
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I haven't watched the video linked in the OP, but I take it from context in the comments that it focuses on living wills, wishes for, er, final resting, etc.

As with BriefestDelurk just now, my mom died completely suddenly a year ago. Living wills and such are important, absolutely, but there are other matters as well: does your parent have a cemetery plot already paid for? Does he/she have a local funeral home with which he/she has made any advance arrangements? Even if both your parents are living, so that if one dies the other will be around to clarify matters, the surviving parent may well be barely coping, and it's very good indeed if you have this information yourself so that you can, if needed, take care of things. You'll probably have to help, maybe a lot.

There are estate issues as well, as Megan mentions upthread. Great idea to put any properties in a trust -- bank accounts, stocks and such can also go in it. It's not essential, but it keeps them out of probate and therefore keeps them out of all the crapola involved in probating an estate. When you're coping with a death, this is such a blessing I can't tell you.

So: a will -- and you should have a copy and know where the original resides (with a lawyer? know who that is). A trust if the parents are amenable. And a central location for all important papers (deeds, car title, stock certificates, etc.). As your parents get older, or if there's only one parent, it's a good idea to add one of the kids as co-signer on the bank account as well. Also any info about a life insurance policy, of course.

My mom had a lot of this stuff in place, thank god, though I never did find the title to her car, and it took like 6 mailings back and forth to various places, including getting some docs certified, to get that straightened out.

Oh, also, a central source for important contact information (phone numbers, address) for all family members and friends of the parents. It was consternating a year ago to realize that neither my brother nor I had any idea how to reach some of our cousins. We scoured my mom's various address books, and I blindly emailed some of her email correspondents to tell them the bad news, after I'd sussed out her password. (People, you should put a date next to people's numbers/addresses so others can tell if this is an address from 14 years ago.)

Sorry this is lengthy, and I hope it doesn't sound lecturing. For younger people, it's not necessarily pressing, but the sooner you establish ongoing communication with your parents about this stuff, the easier it is for them to straightforwardly let you know if anything has changed. (Like, oh, you took out a mortgage on the house? Okay, good to know, and the paperwork is in the safe deposit box which I have access to?)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 6:01 PM
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Holy crap that was long. Sorry!

And BriefestDelurk, my heartfelt sympathies.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 6:03 PM
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The advice in 130 is all very good.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 6:34 PM
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Going presidential since family knows my pseud.

Thanks. This is important, and reminds me that I need to get my siblings and parents together to discuss this together. My parents tell me they've written out living wills (but where?), and we've discussed the general (no heroic measures) stuff. They've told me I'm named as the the decision-maker, but they expect solidarity among the five remaining siblings. However, I anticipate difficulty, particularly with one sibling who may find it too emotionally difficult to say it's okay to let go now, even if rational thought leads to that conclusion.

130 is great - thanks for the reminder that it's not just the medical issues to consider. (The will? Where? Have you updated it since my brother died two years ago? Etc.)


Posted by: Dolly Madison | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 8:13 PM
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The advice in 130 is very good. I am a co-signer on my dad's bank account for this very reason. Luckily my siblings are all OK with this, probably because there is not a lot of money involved.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 8:17 PM
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Almost on-topic medical records request fun stemming from a significant hospital stay by a relative.

Invoice addressed to "Dewey Haik (Attorney Infect)".

Order Quantity: 3522. Unit Price: $0.75, Extended Price: $2641.50, Shipping & Handling: $5.00.

"Your request will be processed upon receipt of payment." Ummm, never mind.



Posted by: Dewey Haik | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 8:49 PM
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I am a co-signer on my dad's bank account for this very reason

Yes. My mom and I had a pretty sober conversation about it at the time, about 10 years ago: she worried, should her brother, my uncle, be the co-signer? Would he be insulted if he were not? Should he be co-signer along with me? For that could result in some tussles and confusion over control of funds, whenever the time came. There's not a lot of money anywhere in my family, and I understood more about matters, so we made the decision.

The important thing is just to talk about it. Once you begin to do so, it's not a major freakout to address any updates.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 9:00 PM
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I just watch the video in the OP. Remarkable. Really great.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:37 PM
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watch s/b watched


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-26-10 10:38 PM
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I think that Brock and I need to form a club for people whose parents are in denial.

I've worried about this stuff since I was ten. My grandmother's affairs were in much better order, and her funeral arrangements were still a mess. The only thing I know about my Dad is that he doesn't want his remains flown anywhere, and he doesn't want them scattered.

Other than that, he's so damn frightened about the whole thing--and his health is not good--that I can't get anything out of him. His planning abilities are not good generally. I'm not even sure what I can do to prepaer for it. I think that I'll just need to bank my own money and vacation time so that I can spend months dealing with it.

No, I'm not bitter at all. (In truth, I'm getting less bitter.)


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02-28-10 7:46 AM
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