Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Death, Dying, Living

So, I was wanting to post this after the "Part 3", but holidays, getting ready for another show, holidays, getting ready for another show (you get the picture), permitted me from doing so. I was going to write more about the week after my father's death and what happened, but instead, I wanted to hopefully give you some knowledge on what I learned about a parent's death. All of you that read my blog (all 2 of you :)).

So, I went back to my journal and found the 2 pages that were written between me and my friend Alissa. On a side note Alissa and my other friend Marjori, dropped work to drive 8 hours to be with me and my mom to help out. I would not have gotten through the week without them.

The Living/Dead list:

- Back to NYC - Tue. Night (this was written when I was flying to Houston - thinking that a miracle was going to happen - ironic how this was at the top of the list that later became - the list of sorting out the living and the dead)
- Hair Appt - Wed. AM (my mom hadn't had her hair cut in 2 months)
- Sew Up Drapes - Wed./Thur. (my mom had just put up new drapes b/4 my dad went in for the operation and hadn't had time to hymn them)
- Bills - Wed/Thur. - categorized/paid (having to figure out what was paid, what needed to be paid and just what was what)
- Pills - Wed./Thur. (my mom's medication. didn't want 2 funerals that week.)
- Obituary - Wed.
- Craig - Wed. (this is the Rev. at FUMC where my parents had attended church. And, also, where I attended growing up. got to see a lot of familar faces there.)
- Headstone - Wed. - Denton (this was the funeral home), Casket, Claudia's Hair (my dad's sister had a box of my dad's hair from his first hair cut. his mother had given it to his sister before she died and his sister had been forgetting to give it to him. so, we decided it would go with him in the casket)
- Fri - Food, Plates, s/u stuff, ice
- Dry Clean - Dad's suit - Wed.
- Limo - Wed.
- Photo - Dad (a picture for the paper)
- Grocery List
- Germany Trip - change name (my mom and dad had planned on going to Germany and had already put a down payment on the trip. i was originally going to go in his place.)
- call Late bills
- Get rid of trash
- call flower shop (for flowers for the casket)
- pick up/call for flowers that need to be delivered
- Call HS about inquiring years of coaching - what sports (this was for the obit.)
- Clear shoe boxes for bills (we were setting up a system for my mom - we ended up just buying some nice boxes and folders for her)

We had determined the funeral was going to be Friday, so we technically only had 48 hours to pull this off (did I mention that I had contracted bronchittis? Well, heck, if I had SMed and run a show with walking pneumonia, I was sure I could get through this.)

It really did become a time of getting ready for an event, not a death. Which in some ways helped. The saddnessan> came in more manageable sizes.

After many phone calls, conversations, and more lists, here is my hindsight information. Things that could have been done before hand and things I learned along the way.

1. Bills and Finances. Parents should keep a list of where everything is kept and how the filing is done. Now, it won't be perfect, but something that will help when needing to find things in a pinch. That list should be shared with the child(ren).

2. Funeral Homes. In my opinion, we went to about the best one ever. I didn't realize how much they did for you. Here's what I remember:
- transportation of body (if necessary). fyi, the hospital will not release the body until they know which funeral home you are using. but, yes, the funeral home takes care of that.
- death certificates and life insurance. they can get all the information necessary and make sure checks and death certificates get to the right place. all states are different on this (since my father died in Texas, but was living in New Mexico, there was a little more of a wait and the price is different). also, on death certificates, buy more than you need - cheaper if you buy in bulk. if you need to order more, you are going to pay a higher price for one at a time.
- obituary - we got a call from the paper when we got home, but if you don't have a funeral announcement or obit - they will help you write it up and get all the information over to the newspaper.
- plot or "land". the people in the biz like to call it "land". we also went ahead and got a bit of "land" for my mom too.
- casket - but of course. of course they are "containers" or some other word she used. this was a very emotional momment. it makes it especially real. she walked in and described some of them, then left us to look for a bit. my mom had to leave the room, so in the end, i picked it out.
- thank you cards and books for people to sign in. funny how funerals and weddings are very similar.
- graveside or church funeral. from there they give you options and make all the arrangements with all the people involved including pallbearers, ushers, etc.
- transportation of family on the day of the funeral
- alerting the police for a funeral procession
- where all the flowers are going - to the house or the funeral home. on a personal note - have some sent to the funeral home if you are having a gravesite service. it's nice to know there will be some flowers at the gravesite when all is said and done.
- tombstone. they however, do not take care of this or at least this funeral home did not - you have to order that seperately - they will give you connections. they'll help with where it needs to go, giving them the "land" information, but they don't order these. (we still haven't done that yet - and it's OK to wait)

3. Food. There will not be a problem with food. But, ice - if you are having some sort of gathering at your home after the funeral - don't forget ice. One mistake we did make was going to the grocery store and stocking up on cheese plates and bread and all sorts of snacks for the gathering after the funeral. We had so much food that people had brought in over the course of the week - from full meals to snacks, to bottled water, to sodas, you get the picture. People want to help you and one of the most popular ways is food. My mom didn't have to go grocery shopping until after Thanksgiving.

4. Do Things That Are Extremely Important - Time Sensitive, Sort Of. First off, giving a call to those bill payments that are past due, but can't be taken care of now. Saying, "Sorry I am late with my payment, my _______________ just passed away." works pretty darn well. And, honestly, one could probably even wait more time than we did. But, seeing that I was only there for the week, things had to get done. Even the ordering of the death certificates can wait for about 60 days. If you remember something that needs to be done, write it down. Put it someplace where you can remember it and do it when you are a little stronger.

5. Organize/Clean As Much As You Can - When one or both parents pass, there are always things that were left in the "get to that later pile". Sometimes that pile was noted, sometimes not. Also, at least in my mom's case, she had been away for 3 weeks. Mail had piled up, laundry had to be done, etc. I can't say for certain on this next point, but there is something to say about keeping busy when things go wrong. Lying in bed and not moving for days also sounds like a pretty good plan too, but I think keeping busy was probably the better option.

There were A LOT more lists that were written of course. Not to sound callous, but it reminded me a lot of preparing for a benefit (which of course, as the song goes that some of you know of - you never can). And, I was reminded of the scene in The Big Chill when Glenn Close says to her friends at a funeral reception which was in her home- "I do put on a good funeral". Cause, after all that happened that week, it was so nice to have a house full of people. My parent's house, my home for so many years, hadn't seen that since I was very young. Everyone talking and, under the cirumstances, having a good time. Living amongst the death.

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