Friday, October 25, 2013

A Bit of Advice

Mom feeding a lorakeet at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, a few years ago.
It's almost 2 weeks since Mom passed away and the logistics have been a bit of a nightmare. 

Several years ago, Mom made arrangements to donate her remains to science. Noble, yes? Undoubtedly. Successful? Eventually.

The company Mom used is located in Omaha, Nebraska. They promised quick pick up and the eventual return of cremains once she'd given all she could. The problem? Bodies are very difficult to transport across state lines. Of course, my sister and I didn't discover this until today, when we went to get death certificates for her.

The ICU staff at the hospital where she passed assured me they would take care of everything. Needless to say, they didn't. Rather than contacting the company Mom had used, they contacted their local donor network, which doesn't accept full body donations. The hospital never bothered to let me know this. 

Today, my sister and I tried to get death certificates so we could close out her various credit cards; transfer her car to me and collect on her life insurance, only to find out that the certificate hadn't been filed by the hospital because her body had yet to be released. She was still in their morgue. After a trip to the Trenton City Hall, we made our way to the hospital where three lovely ladies came to our aid, descending on us en masse in the cafeteria. They clucked and made phone calls and did everything they could to help. Bizarrely, in all of their collective years in the health care industry, they'd never come across a case where the decedent wanted to donate his or her body to science. Both my sister and I were astonished, but they all agreed this was a learning moment for all of us. After an hour at the hospital and many phone calls, they were finally able to arrange donation to the Mercer County Community College's Mortuary Sciences program, where Mom will (hopefully) be treated with the respect and dignity we all deserve upon passing.

When all was said and done, I was able to procure 2 copies of my own birth certificate (ironically needed to request the death certificate), get Mom to a place where her last wishes could be fulfilled and gain some insight to the problems associated when one eschews the rip-off that is the Funereal Industry. Hopefully, I'll be able to get the required documents before I return to the Day Job on Wednesday.

Add this to cleaning out 40+ years of clothing; shoes; accessories; makeup and doo-dads and we have had quite a few days. We donated 13 large trash bags of clothing; three large boxes of shoes and her left-over medical supplies (including her walker; shower seat; leg-lifts and more) to Goodwill. We were able to sell her jewelry (a rather extensive collection) to cover additional costs associated with her passing and start to prepare for a Spring yard sale for the rest. I still have a full 12 foot closet and two armoires full of clothes to get through, as well as lots of paperwork; insurance claims; document shredding and assorted other things to get through, but we're well on our way. I don't imagine everything will be settled before next summer.

My house already looks very different and will continue to change over the next several months. My family, friends and co-workers continue to be amazing and I can't imagine getting through all of this without them.

But I want to give all of you out there a bit of advice.

First: Make sure your last wishes are well-known and well-documented. And don't let anyone tell you "We'll take of it."

Second: Keep accurate, up-to-date and easily accessible records. Nothing Mom had was labeled or organized. I still have mountains of paperwork to go through.

Third: Destroy all financial documents after 5 years. I have stuff to shred dating back to 1989!

Fourth and finally: Document EVERYTHING! Keep well-labeled, organized multiple copies of everything your family and/or loved ones will need. I had copies of my grandmother's birth-certificate, but not my own.

Plan ahead. We all die. Make sure you don't leave a mess for those left behind.

Well, this was not a happy post, was it? I just hope I've helped a few readers who may be faced with some of the same problems, down the line.

Tomorrow night is the Family and Friends gathering to celebrate Mom's life at one of her favorite places to eat. And while it may very well give closure to less immediate family members, my sister and I still have a ton to do. Ugh!

Anyone interested in buying several hundred flocked clothes-hangers? I could put Joy Mangano out of business....

More anon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm reading and my thoughts are with you and your sister but I just can't comment.