I lost my beloved father last week. With him my family lost a piece of our collective heart and soul. Relatively young and healthy, my father’s vicious illness was as swift as it was unexpected. A little over three weeks ago, my father returned from a short vacation with flu-like symptoms and a few days later checked into the hospital. So powerful was this disease that we almost lost my father twice in the first week after his diagnosis. Two weeks after his admission to the hospital, my father was gone. Despite my pain, I was more fortunate than most because at least I was able to say goodbye.
During his final weeks, our family struggled to cope with numerous issues including simply understanding his disease and helping him manage a course of treatment. Despite having a brother in the pharmaceutical business, we toiled to understand the complex medical vernacular and on more than one occasion, finished a doctor consultation only to realize that we were still no closer to understanding the challenges my father was facing. My father and all those around experienced the many of the stages of grieving. For those who have not been this close to such a loss, making decisions in this emotional pressure-cooker was incredibly draining.
After his passing, we were faced with another level of challenges that ranged from managing the details of his memorial to dealing with the grief and surprise of others who surrounded our lives. And it was only when the memorial was over that you begin to realize the incredible void left in his wake. Suddenly we were left to assist my mother with everything from the mundane (changing light bulbs) to the more immediate (how to manage on-line banking). Since those days, we have slowly coped and come to realize that these problems can be solved and life will go on. Knowing that my father had organized his affairs gave his family—especially my mother—great comfort during the most challenging period of her life.
I did not prepare my parents estate plan because of the obvious conflict of interest but also because my parents live in a state where I am not licensed to practice law. Until shortly before my father’s death, I never reviewed my parents’ estate plan although I had discussed its general components. As many children, I struggled with the mixed emotions of whether or not to more forcefully interject myself into the situation. Near the end, I was blessed to share with my parents their concerns and fears as to whether or not their affairs were in sufficient order. During our time of need, they discovered that their estate planning attorney had retired and was no longer available. Fortunately, with my professional experience and the assistance of a local friend, we were able to manage the process. In the end, my father’s affairs were in excellent shape, we will avoid the probate process and we were all grateful about my father’s forethought and consideration. Every week I see families that are not as fortunate or prepared as we were for this sad inevitability.
For most of us, we know not our ultimate fate; life is as short as it is sweet and the sands of time can slip through our fingers in an instant. Are you ready?