Isolation diary: Thinking about what happens when I go

This post deals with issues around death, so please do not read it if you would prefer not to.

One of the consequences of this pandemic is that a lot of people have started to think about the end of life, both in general terms and also in terms of their own mortality. It can be pretty scary, and I’m sure I’m not the only person who has been plagued with dark thoughts in the early hours.

Maybe we worry about the possibility of our own deaths and, worse still, the death of those close to us. But I’m very clear in my mind that I want to help my family cope when I eventually die – and that is when, not if. In any case, I am a bit of a control freak and I do want to have some control over my own funeral.

When I drew up a new will and powers of attorney a few years ago the lawyer suggested that I write a wishes letter. This is a statement of what I would like to happen to me in later life and after I have died. It deals with care in old age, and the type of funeral I would like to have. It has no legal weight but it could be enormously helpful to the family, and will be one less thing for them to have to think about.

The idea is to keep the wishes letter with the copy of my will and to make sure that my family knows where to find them. It also makes sense to share it electronically with someone in the family, in case they have to make arrangements remotely.

Well, I had drafted mine but not finished it, so this week I decided to get it sorted.

Prompted by my son, I have also written down a summary of my life, with dates. He said that he knew about a lot of things that happened in the family before he was born, but was rather hazy about how it all fitted together. He was just interested in his own family history, but I can see that such a document would be very helpful for anyone arranging my funeral.

So I have now almost finished writing two documents: My Wishes and My Life.

I have enjoyed the process far more than I was expecting. Putting together My Life has involved research to identify when events happened, and I have taken some nostalgic strolls down roads where I walked as a child, courtesy of Google Street View. While preparing My Wishes I have been listening to some of my favourite music and finding readings that I love.

I have also added a paragraph to my wishes letter to deal with the current difficult circumstances:

Coronavirus update

I don’t want any members of the family or friends to take any risks in the event of my death during the coronavirus restrictions. The preferred option would be for a very quiet and simple cremation. No-one should feel guilty that they can’t attend.

This can be followed by a Service of Thanksgiving and burial of ashes once all the restrictions are lifted.

Once I have finished the documents I will print them off and store them with my will. I will also email them to our sons, having first warned them that they are on their way.

Well, that is a weight off my mind! Back to clearing out cupboards.

PS: Does anyone recognise the cave? Clue – it’s in the UK.

 

 


Please note

We have been in full self-isolation since 16th March to protect my husband whose immune system is compromised.

If you are in self-isolation then join the Lib Dems in self-isolation Facebook group.

You can find my previous Isolation diaries here.

 

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames where she is still very active with the local party.

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20 Comments

  • Yes, I’ve been there recently too, Mary. A funny old mixture of joy and regrets. As Granddad Trotter used to say in ‘Only Fools and Horses’, “In the Woaar”, Mum used to sing “You are my Sunshine” and I remember singing ‘Hail Smiling Morn’ with Uncle George (an, and ‘Smile, Awhile’ which I sang with Dad on the Terraces in better days (Peter Wrigley might remember it ?).

    On a more serious level, I must emphasise the importance of completing a Power of Attorney as well as a letter of wishes and a will. Very important for unmarried people and vital in today’s complicated world if we do survive into a state of incomprehension.,

  • Tony Greaves 3rd Apr '20 - 5:36pm

    Heather and I have finally got round to updating our wills to do a few little things like making sure the Trustees are still alive…

  • David Warren 3rd Apr '20 - 6:30pm

    Power of Attorney is very important. I made sure one was arranged for Daphne my partner when her illness started and my Mum has since done one.

    Preparing for death is never easy, Daphne’s illness was so long protracted that I had plenty of time to prepare. Barring accidents I was pretty confident I would outlive her.

    She wouldn’t say much about what she wanted aside from ‘putting me in a little box’ which was easy to arrange. However I was sufficiently in tune with her to include her some of her favourite music and poetry in her funeral service.

    Having experienced three major bereavements in the last ten years I really feel for people who are losing loved ones to this terrible illness.

  • Laurence Cox 3rd Apr '20 - 8:05pm

    When discussing Lasting Power of Attorney, it is important to remember that there are two distinct powers you can assign, which require separate forms:
    1) Health and Welfare – this only takes effect when you are unable to make your own decisions
    2) Financial Affairs and Property – this can take effect when it is registered, but then your attorneys can only act with your consent while you retain mental capacity.

    See: https://www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney

    Most people think about the second of these, but at £82 each, it is worth thinking about doing both at the same time.

  • Christopher Haigh 3rd Apr '20 - 8:08pm

    @David Raw – David just to make your day if you look on the fans website ‘Down At The Mac’ you will find a beautiful rendition of Smile Awhile which is being celebrated on it’s 100th birthday as the club’s anthem. Originally a Great War US nostalgia song ‘Till we meet again ‘.

  • Hi Chris. Cheers. Will do…… and just to make your day, have a look at the 1930 Cup Final team to see somebody’s Great Uncle.

  • Christopher Haigh 3rd Apr '20 - 8:43pm

    David don’t to me your great uncle was Sir Amos Brook Hirst ! I had a great uncle called Percy Holmes but he was a cricketer !

  • Yeovil Yokel 3rd Apr '20 - 10:12pm

    Is the cave Smoo Cave which opens out to the sea near Durness in Sutherland, East of Cape Wrath?

  • 555 ? Impressive. Nowt so posh as Sir Amos though, Chris, just a steel worker from Tow Law…. though we were neighbours of Wilf Barber and he used to get me autographs at Headingley Test matches..

    Here’s a bit of entertainment for you.

    Interview with Cup Final Teams – Huddersfield at Buxton …
    https://www.youtube.com › watch
    Video for huddersfield town at Buxton 1930▶ 2:05
    21 Jul 2015 – Uploaded by British Movietone
    Huddersfield team introduced by Wilson. The Captain. Shots of the team training.

  • Well done, Yeovil Yokel, it is indeed Smoo Cave.

  • Very good post. And it’s a very good idea to write something about your life. I’d love to know more about my great-grandfathers’ and grandfathers’ lives and it may well be something that can be done now. Doing a video or audio recording of “interviewing” older generations and a good educational task for children. And indeed people writing down memories of older relatives who may or may not have passed away that get mentioned in chats but never get written down – child evacuees experiences for example. And diaries of the current situation will be very interesting in the future

    It’s also something to do for local party histories. I wish I had spent time writing a little account of every election at the end of it and preserved our and our opponents leaflets. But it’s a good time to sort out those old boxes…

    There is also a need for some lib dem collection of this. (? Lib dem history group) as of course one doesn’t want them to be in the public domain immediately and available to one’s opponents but equally one doesn’t want them to disappear.

    I once chanced upon my then local party’s executive’s minutes for the mid 70s. The issues were much the same Europe and the ineptitude of party headquarters! But knowing what people thought at the time would have been interesting as minutes don’t give you much

  • Christopher Haigh 4th Apr '20 - 12:51pm

    @ David Raw – I have used this morning’s isolation to research your great uncle who was HARRY RAW born 1903 Tow Law and played on the left wing I think for Huddersfield 1925 – 1931 and then West Bromwich Albion. The other great footballer from Tow Law FC was the one and only truly brilliant Chris Waddle.

  • Yes, Chris, except he was the inside forward partnering the great Billy Smith who was on the left wing. Billy came from Tantobie not far from Tow Law and over half the Cup Final team came originally from the Durham coalfield, including captain, Tommy Wilson, who won the M.M. in the First War. Harry finished his career at Lincoln City and became manager at Crook Town.

  • William Wallace 4th Apr '20 - 4:20pm

    Mary: this is very constructive. Writing down what you remember of your early life and your parents, for your grandchildren, is really valuable – telling them where they came from, and what others went through. We’ve updated our wills, swapped powers of attorney, and bought a plot in a woodland burial site in upper Airedale on the road from Skipton to Grassington; and my sisters and I are swapping recollections of our parents and our childhoods. I’m so glad I took notes when my father, then nearly 90, talked about his experiences when 18 at the front between April and November 1918. Now I’ve at last checked with the Gordon Highlanders Museum, he was remarkably accurate!

  • Richard Underhill. 4th Apr '20 - 4:42pm

    William Wallace 4th Apr ’20 – 4:20pm
    Plus any experience of the range of the Kaiser’s naval gunnery on the east coast in WWI

  • Richard Underhill. 4th Apr '20 - 4:51pm

    David Warren 3rd Apr ’20 – 6:30pm
    If making a will members and supporters should please consider whether they wish to settle anything on the Liberal Democrats. It might be tempting to name the local party, but boundary changes can complicate the issue/s at an unknown future date. The national party is more likely to continue to exist, so consulting the President might be wise.

  • Richard Underhill. 4th Apr '20 - 5:03pm

    Travellers might have noticed that Michael Choo Choo Portillo toured the UK with an old guidebook. He visited a Labour social club, but was told that they knew he was a tory because he did not pay for his tea.
    I recall that he said on tv that he was no longer a member of the Conservative party.
    He also answered on how he had voted in a general election in Spain.
    We toured Spain under the leadership of Russell Johnson MP. We were told that there were 35 seats in Madrid, so 3% of the vote would elect one MP under the list system of proportional representation in use, regrettably not achieved.

  • Richard Underhill. 4th Apr '20 - 5:13pm

    David Raw 3rd Apr ’20 – 5:32pm
    and there’ll be blue-birds over the white cliffs of Dover, tomorrow, just you wait and see.
    Forecasts are about the future, for which there is no historical evidence.
    There are “known knowns, unknown knowns and unknown unknowns.”

  • @ Richard Underhill, funnily enough my parents weren’t that keen on Vera Lynn( though I hear the old girl is still on the go at 103).
    we’ve seen the kids & grandkids, and after I’ve seen the Terriers in action is to get to Hudders Town Hall and hear the Choral Society sing this :

    Especially for William and Chris Haigh

    2:10
    Hail! Smiling Morn
    Darius Battiwalla – Topic
    YouTube – 29 Sep 2014

  • Christine Headley 5th Apr '20 - 12:40am

    @Richard Underhill 4.51 pm My will leaves something to the Local Party of which I am a member at the time, so no problem with boundary changes, or resignation.

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