Dying to Talk

Was talking to a bereaved friend recently and decided to blog about it as there is widespread reluctance to discuss dying even though it’s as natural as birth. I personally feel, ending the silence on talking about death may diminish its terrors and help person prepare emotionally for their impending death and family to accept the loss of loved one and the resulting financial implications if any. One can explore Death Cafe a discussion group where strangers gather to discuss death. Exploring the topic of death or dying with strangers is usually easy to start with before attempting talking it out with family. Usually people do not talk about the topic as talking about death is very difficult, uncomfortable, awkward and upsetting for both dying person and the family, each with different reasons for wanting to talk or stay silent. Reasons vary on both sides for this lack of communication, some fear saying the wrong thing; some due to superstition believe that it may hasten death if it’s acknowledged; while some try to shield themselves from grief by actively ignoring it, hoping it would go away. But as the person approaches closer to death they become introspective but rarely discuss frankly their dying wishes with family/friends. Not to sound morbid but open conversations/discussion on death should be encouraged as this helps the dying person to prepare well while ensuring family is looked after without legal hassles and assists the surviving family come to terms with the event as their wishes too are equally important. Decisions are reached after numerous discussion over time rather than help tackle everything in one conversation. To do this a dying person can do the following:

  • Take professional help to prepare a written legal “Will” on a stamp paper rather than Oral Will and copy should be deposited with lawyer, executor or in a locker for safekeeping. Failure to prepare a will leaves decisions regarding your estate/property in the hands of judges or government officials leading to strife within family.
  • If there are any debts like outstanding loans from private individuals/institutions, banks etc., or in event the dying person has loaned any person any money that too should be recorded and supporting documents to be put in locker or safe place.
  • State your wishes clearly if you are handling business – singly or jointly and leave a letter of instruction on handling it.
  • If there is any movable and immovable property along with family heirlooms, jewelry, banking details, various investments, mutual funds, bonds etc., should be distributed/allocated to whosoever in the Will itself to avoid legal hassles to surviving kin and original/photocopy deposited in locker so surviving kin can access this information in one place along with duplicate keys to all lockers, houses etc., as well as passwords to online banking accounts, credit/debit cards, emails, social media accounts etc., can be recorded and placed along with other important documents like the Will.
  • Ensure that dependents (physically/mentally/terminally ill etc.) and/or parents, surviving spouse are well cared for by writing it in Will itself rather than bequeath all property in children’s name assuming they will take care of the grandparents, surviving parent or dependents.
  • Letter of instruction regarding pets can also be left.
  • If person has signed any organ donation forms then the papers should be filed along with Will and the family should be informed accordingly so they are emotionally prepared.
  • Children and/or surviving spouses should know about all important documents like property papers, bank papers, investment papers etc., and where they are stored in case there is no locker facility available. If the person is unmarried/divorced without children then the estate can be donated/gifted to relatives or non-profit organisations.
  • Letter of instruction regarding medical directives can be given especially like Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) or Do-Not-Attempt-Resuscitation (DNAR) instructions can be included in the will if the person so desires.
  • Leaving Against Medical Advice (LAMA) can be practiced by dying person if they so desire, as Passive Euthanasia provision can only be practiced if dying person is terminally ill in a vegetative state, as Active Euthanasia is illegal as it may lead to exploitation of elderly with property.
  • Letters of instruction stating the dying person’s wishes how they would like the final rites are to take place according to particular religion or spiritual beliefs; if it should be conducted in traditional way by burial or burning on pyre or in the modern way in crematorium or by donating their body to science.

Earlier on there were joint families in India and the final rites were performed by combined effort of closest kith and kin. But with modern day challenges like exponential growth of nuclear families in Tier I & Tier II cities, relocation due to work, travel etc., death can occur in location far away from home and its very challenging for surviving family to handle this emotional delicate sad event.

At a point of time when family is grieving, it is challenging for them to arrange logistics and haggle with vendors to get things done in funeral preparations. There is no time to cry or say final goodbyes by person handling funeral as he/she busy in sourcing materials as per religious customs, ensuring to follow community rituals, booking of vehicles to transport family and Hearse vans to transport the physical remains, finding priests, identifying traditional/electrical cremation centers, prayer halls, shraadh services, catering etc. The person also has to take decision if the organs are harvestable and contact organizations if deceased/family have expressed their intention to donate or if deceased signed up for organ donation. If physical remains to be stored in mobile freezer boxes in case it was an unforeseen/sudden occurrence with/without any health problems, till family arrives. At times there is domestic and international repatriation of human remains which have to be got back to choice of place of deceased or their family. Ensuring all the paper work is done for during/after funeral like reporting in various places like government birth & deaths, places of work, pension office, banks etc., takes its toll on the person handling funeral.

Now-a-days people are getting more self sufficient and do not want to burden their family, friends and neighbors with task of their funeral arrangement especially as today’s generation have no prior experience to organize such an events as last rites, with their limited knowledge of rituals to be conducted and the arising post funeral duties. An organized option with personalized solutions for professional end-to-end funeral management services is sought. Varanasi based Kashimoksha and another Kashimoksha; Ahmedabad based Mokshshil, Mumbai based Indian Funeral Services (IFS), Rajkot based Shradhanjali, Anthyesti in Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Pune, Varanasi etc., are options one can check. Reason to opt for funeral management vary like death can strike anytime and surviving family consists of ill, children or illiterate or old spouses are left to handle everything especially since most of their contemporaries have already passed away and dependence to carry out rituals is limited, their children are abroad and cannot return home to carry out the final rites, or live in big cities where neighbors are not known etc.

Modern problems require modern solutions. To ensure that funeral is appropriately and professionally conducted with dignity it requires and ensuring to fulfil the deceased requirements and their family wishes there are options available provided the dying person or family is knowledgeable of these existing options. There are Pre-Book/Pre-Paid Funeral plans with Funeral Management Services. There are also Burial Insurance also called Funeral Insurance or Final Expense Insurance, an insurance plan for the funerals as well as Funeral Bonds that helps set aside money to cover eventual funeral costs. All options should be explored to pick the right solution to your predicament.

Discussion should also include what surviving family can do incase of event and how to get relevant documents like a Family Certificate/Legal Heir Certificate/Surviving Member Certificate/Succession Certificate etc., which will help in transferring of property including houses, patta of land, house tax, electricity connection, telephone connection, bank account, insurance if survivor not mentioned etc., especially if dying person has two families or is a central and state government servant where this certificate helps to get family pension, and for getting appointment on compassionate grounds.

There are other unorthodox options one can exercise where ashes can be made into organic biodegradable burial pods/pots/capsules by Italy based Capsula Mundi, USA based Cremation Solutions makes keepsakes like personalized crystal jewelry, glass encasements/urns, sculptures & art made from ashes and Elysium Space launches ashes into space, UK based And Vinyly presses ashes into vinyl records, Parting Stone solidifies remains into smooth stones etc.

All this is possible only when one discusses about death and its aftermath.

Note: I am not endorsing any person or institution or business I have mentioned in my article. It is also not legal advice, please use discretion while following it!

One Response to “Dying to Talk”

  1. P Divakar Says:

    Very informative.. as rightly mentioned, death is a natural biological event and the write up provides many tips for handling it.. and develop perseverance to face it

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