Saturday, April 13, 2019

DEATH - from Dr Svoboda's blg ..

Dr. Svoboda's April Update




Funerals offer first-rate reminders of just how temporary and tenuous human life is. Last week I attended a service held for Herman Svoboda, who was simultaneously my father’s first cousin and his first cousin once removed (their fathers, first cousins, having married two sisters). Herman died at the ripe old age of 92, coherent until the end (as my own sister could testify, having last visited him just ten days before his demise), with an admirably full head of natural hair (its admirable color, not so natural). Though his children were saddened – no one is really prepared for the death of a parent, at any age – they could also be pleased that he had enjoyed a full and generally happy life, and that he had had plenty of time to put his affairs in order before his departure.
 
Not everyone is so blessed, for death can come at any moment, and often snatches its victims unawares. Going through some old files this week I was reminded of just how meticulous my parents were in this matter, and just how important it is to be so. In April 1974, on their way back home from visiting family in central Texas, their car was struck by a drunk driver. My mother’s younger brother was killed instantly, and my mother nearly died herself, of trauma that broke thirteen of her bones. My aunt broke both her legs, and my father escaped with lacerations, but all four of them could easily have perished. Fortunately, their wills were all in order, had they not survived.
 
This was not the case with my friend John Coon, who taught yoga in Houston. Despite having long been on dialysis, and despite having earlier come within a whisker of decease when his body rejected its second transplanted kidney, John had no valid will when he finally shuffled off this mortal coil. Despite having repeatedly requested me to take his ashes to the Ganga for immersion, and despite my willingness to do so, the cousin who inherited his effects has not yet released those ashes to me, even years after his expiry.
 
Given that death is the single event that all of us can be sure we will experience in life, it is dismaying that so many pay so little attention to what we will leave behind when we go. It is unfair when you go to meet your Maker for you to saddle someone with the responsibility of trying to figure out what you wanted done with what you have left behind, including in particular your dead body. I recall again the example my parents set: they not only pre-purchased plots in the local cemetery but pre-paid their funerals as well, to reduce the burden on their children after their departure.
 
Whether or not you go that far in your planning it is quite essential that you insure that you have put aside sufficient funds to cover the cost of the disposal of your corpse and that those monies will be easily accessible to whomever you have entrusted with tidying up whatever it is you leave behind. And it is crucial that you let your near and dear ones – or at the very least those of your near and dear ones who are reliable –know what your end-of-life wishes are. If your medical condition becomes grave how much life-preservation intervention do you want, and for how long? After you go do you want to be buried or cremated? 
 
To make that job as difficulty-free as possible you should at the very least have executed, while you are still in possession of your senses, a valid last will and testament that indicates precisely what you want done and how, for which purpose you will need to nominate some trusted individual to be your executor or executrix, i.e. the person who will be in charge of getting that done. (Preferably you will also nominate an alternative, if the first person you nominate becomes unwilling or unable to serve when the moment arises.) There is little excuse for not having a will nowadays, given the kits that are available on the internet; be careful to insure however that the will is in a form that is valid in the county and state in which it will be executed, as every state has different stipulations. Try to make the will simple, clear, and not unreasonably inequitable (unless you would prefer for one of your legatees to challenge it in court).
 
In addition, when making your will consider carefully the probate laws of the jurisdiction where it will be executed, probate basically meaning having a judge provide “approbation” that your will is valid. Procuring probate in Texas is simple and inexpensive; in many states, though, it can cost thousands of dollars and take months or even years. If you reside in such a state you might consider adding beneficiaries to your financial accounts, as such assets will be transferred to those beneficiaries directly without having to go through probate.
 
While you are preparing your will, you should also obtain:
1. a durable power of attorney, in case (unlike Herman or my parents) you go out of your wits before you croak and someone needs to start managing your affairs;
2. a medical power of attorney, in case some event leaves you unable to make any medical decisions on your own;
3. a do-not-resuscitate order, so that you can be permitted to let go of your life when survival becomes impossible, instead of having your body be forced to continue to function long after the rest of you is ready to go.
 
The entire exercise of preparing and procuring all these documents will be a valuable reminder of just how impermanent you are, and how essential it is to acknowledge this impermanence regularly, preferably daily, for every day could be the day you transition to being unembodied. The most important of all preparations for death is to daily salute Providence in whatever form you have most faith.

Happy Navaratri (now going on), Happy Hanuman Jayanti (next full moon), and Happy Easter (shortly thereafter) to you all!