Seven years ago a local couple was killed in an auto accident as they were traveling across a bridge that my husband and I travel once a week. Their sudden and unexpected deaths stunned our local community. I remember saying to my husband the next time we crossed the bridge together, “It could have been us.”
I considered and reflected what our sudden deaths would have meant to our grown and out-of-town children if indeed it had been us killed on the bridge that day.
I put myself in their shoes and imagined the shock, the grief and the logistical nightmare of coming home to two dead parents and a barn full of livestock. I considered the heartache and long distance mess that our children would face in the event that both of us die suddenly. Then and there I resolved to make the inevitable burden easier on my children.
While I was thinking about death, I also considered the possibility of what if I was to die suddenly? What could I do to help my husband and make my death easier for him to bear? I thought about both scenarios for a while, and then set out to prepare my household and my effects in the event of my death.
The plans and preparations that I made for that future event are to my way of thinking, one of the most loving and thoughtful things that I have ever done for my family. I am prepared for the inevitable. I prepped for my own death.
Here’s What I Did And Why I Did It
I made sure that both my husband and my Last Will & Testament were in order and current. My kids will have a list of all bank accounts, passwords, lawyers, leases and business connections. I can only imagine what a mess it must be to leave someone without the benefit of legal protection or without a list of important phone numbers and up-to-date information.
I made arrangements with local family and neighbors to help our big city children with the care and sale of our livestock and the eventual sale of the farm. Life goes on and the animals in the barn need food and water every day no matter where I am. Those animals can’t wait for my kids to fly in from NYC to feed them or to milk them.
Fact is my kids have families, jobs and responsibilities of their own. They shouldn’t have to take weeks off from work to sort out a mess that I could have prevented with beforehand planning. My children have no idea how to disperse a herd of cattle and sheep. Or what to do with a barn full of hay, pigs, goats or chickens.My kids will need the help of trusted friends and neighbors to see them through and advise them.
I wrote a very detailed letter with instructions for my children. That letter has been pinned to my intended burial clothes. It’s bad enough to bury your mother or father. But consider the sheer bewilderment of trying to figure out who to call for trash pick up or what’s the name of the insurance agent? Why burden your children with, “Who’s the lawyer?” “Does she want to be buried with her wedding ring or not?” or “Who gets the big spinning wheel?”, if you can help it? My children will never have to concern themselves with that sort of thing. I took care of all the details for them in my letter of instructions. They’ll have enough heartaches without all the headaches too.
I Wrote My Own Obituary
Writing your own obituary is I think one of the most constructive life affirming exercises that any adult over the age of 25 can do. Fact of the matter is you are going to die. Young people die. Old people die. Sick people die. Healthy people die. Just about nobody wakes up in the morning thinking, “Well, I guess today is the day.” So realistically, unless you’re sitting on death row with a date and time already set or you are planning a scheduled suicide, you have no idea when you are going to die.
I found that by writing my own obituary, I was able to leave a written testament to my life and personally reaffirm for posterity, those people, places and things which have been most important to me. For the vast majority of people our obituary will be the only thing that is ever written about us. It can be an ordeal to write an obituary for someone else. I clearly remember how hard it was to write the obituary for my father-in-law when he died without too much warning. My husband and I struggled to slap something together while sitting in the funeral director’s office. Think about it. How do you confine an entire life inside of a few paragraphs? Did we remember the right things? Did we actually know what was important to him? How can other people know what were the most significant things in our lives? My husband and I did the best we could for my father-in-law. But I will always feel that we could have done better.
By writing my own obituary I saved my children from that task. They will never question themselves. The world and my posterity will know what really mattered to me. After all – it was my life.
What To Write
There are no set rules for obituaries and most obituaries have a few basic shared elements. Obituaries usually contain some of the following:
- Name, age, occupation and address of deceased.
- Time, place and cause of death.
- Birth date, birthplace.
- Survivors. (Only immediate family.)
- Memberships, military service.
- Funeral and burial arrangements.
- Outstanding or interesting activities and achievements.
- Memberships in fraternal, religious or civic organizations.
- Service in armed forces.
When I wrote my own obituary I took a day or so to think about my life. I considered what has been important to me. Once my thoughts were collected it only took about 30 minutes to write it. Now every couple of years I update my obituary and I keep it with my Will and other papers that my children will need.
I don’t think it is morbid or unhealthy to look to the future and plan for your own death. I think it’s responsible, realistic and prudent. So far I’m healthy. I fully expect to live a long life.
But you just never know what’s around the bend. Or coming at you head on from across the bridge.
People store food, supplies and prepare and plan for all kinds of sudden events and “if come” occurrences. Some of the planned for possibilities and events are reasonable and sensible. Some possibilities are down right wacky and paranoid. But I promise you –you are going to die. It is not a wacky or paranoid possibility. You can face it or not. Your death is inevitable no matter what you think of it. So why not plan and make preparations now while you have time? Please don’t let fear or uneasiness about death keep you from doing the right thing and providing comfort and help to your family during one of their greatest times of need. You have it within your control to ease some of the heartache for those left behind.
I thought you would like to read my obituary. Because this is the internet, names, dates and some other information has been changed to protect privacy. With the real obituary all my kids have to do is plug in the date; the manner of death and ditch the two bogus books that I didn’t write.
So read and weep – or not. I wrote my own obituary.
So I get the last word and the last laugh.
On August 15, 2034 Katherine Mary Grossman (Kathy) of Worth Township, died at home surrounded by her family after a brief illness.
Mrs. Grossman was born Katherine Mary Underwood (Eiserhardt) on July 18, 1950 in Washington. D.C. She is survived by her husband Richard Lee Grossman.
She leaves behind, her beloved children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; Rachel Elizabeth Tervel, Anna Louise Gregory, Barbara Marie Clair: granddaughters Lillian Katherine Tervel – Desmarias, Beatrice Ann Trevel- Kam, Morgan McConnell and their children; Martha, Peter, Mary Jane, Joseph,Louisa, Elizabeth, Matthew and Thomas.
Mrs. Grossman is also survived by her brother John Eiserhardt, and sisters Margaret O’Hara and Theresa Eiserhardt; nieces Caitlin Shannor, Leah O’Hara – Brown, nephews John Shieder and George Eierhardt and their beautiful children.
Mrs. Grossman was the author of “Pitchforks & Aprons: 19th Century American Agrarian Women”
and “Blue Doors, Crossed Mops and Dropped Dish Clothes:A Short History of Appalachian Household Folklore“.
Mrs. Grossman was an avid knitter, home sewer, hand weaver and hand spinner and was a member of the Mercer County Spinner’s & Weavers Guild. She was a familiar face at the Old Stone House during the 1990s. Mrs. Grossman raised purebred Border Cheviot sheep for many years and was an excellent cook and an enthusiastic home canner. She loved her vegetable, herb and flower gardens and apple orchard. Mrs. Grossman was an astrologer and spent many years observing predictable agrarian cycles in the natural world.
She attended the Al Ahliah School for Girls in Beirut, Lebanon and was a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University.
Friends of Katherine Grossman, who died Tuesday, August 15, 2034, will be received from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday August 17,2034 at the Grossman Farm, 945 Bent Oak Lane, Plain Oak, PA.
The funeral and memorial service is at 10:00 a.m, Friday, August 18, 2034, at St. Elias Orthodox Church, 915 Lynn St, New Castle, PA. Internment immediately following at the West Liberty Cemetery, Otter Creek, PA .