Growing up, my mother was always organised. She filed everything, never kept things she no longer needed, or thought we no longer needed (my childhood cuddle bunny being one of them) and generally has a practical outlook on life. Her name is Patricia, and she is often appropriately called Practical Pat. None of her daughters have inherited this trait, and she often despairs when she visits me, and there are only two toilet rolls in the cupboard, no long-life milk as a backup, and three lonesome teabags in the tin. We often laugh at her extreme practicality, but in truth, it’s one of the greatest gifts she gives our family.
Her practicality means that she is organised and prepared for most eventualities, including her and my father’s eventual death. Just writing those words sends shivers down my spine and makes me want to close my computer and walk away from my desk, but it’s inevitable, and I could not be more grateful that she is prepared. Being prepared has taken an enormous strain off my and my siblings’ shoulders. When the time comes, we know that she has done everything she can to make the transition to life without them as easy as possible by allowing us to focus on our grief and healing.
My parents became Chartered clients just after I started working there in 2020. My mother spent a lot of time collecting all the relevant documents and putting everything together in the Legacy File that Chartered gave her. Her preparedness means that no matter what happens in their old age, when the time comes, we will not have to worry about where important papers are kept or what they want us to do regarding their care and even their wishes for when they die. This allows us to be fully emotionally present with them now and in the future. This is such a blessing because there are no uncomfortable conversations to be had, only memories to be made.
On the other hand, I have a friend who lives overseas, and her parents live in South Africa. Her parents aren’t well, so she visited them recently. While we were having lunch, the topic turned to their death and what happens when they die. Her answers broke my heart. She has no idea. She has no idea what would happen to the surviving parent, no idea what money is set aside (if any ) for their care, no idea where they keep any important documents, no idea who the executor of the estate is, no idea if they want to be cremated or buried and no idea what the financial implication on her would be should they need care.
They are the most loving and kind family who have always communicated openly except about the uncomfortable topic of death. This is the time when my friend should be soaking up spending time with her parents and making memories; instead, it’s an anxious time filled with uncertainty and fear.
Please have these uncomfortable conversations and give your children the gift of being prepared; they will be forever grateful.