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Walking kids through death

By Sun Advocate

I thought we had walked our kids through everything they would need to know to equip them with the tools of life. We taught them early about good work ethics and stressed the importance of education.
We taught them all the necessary skills like getting along with others, learning how to relax, how to laugh and the importance of being good friends. We tried to teach respect, compassion and enthusiasm for life. They learned that every decision has a consequence and we helped them to think before they acted. As parents we raised our kids to think for themselves and how to develop their own values by exposing them to many issues we felt they might need to know as they grew up.
As our kids grew up our parenting skills seemed to pay off. Our children grew up pretty balanced, for the most part making good choices and dealing with life on life’s terms. However, one lesson that we never had to deal with as a family was death.
As a young man I lost both parents and eight grandparents, either on my side of the family or my wife’s. But all these deaths happened before my sons were old enough to remember.
Last week my eldest son was faced with the sudden, unsuspected death of his fiance’s mother. He turned 28 last fall and had never lost anyone close to him. He had grown very close to her over the past couple years and her family structure was very similar to his mother’s family. I talked to him on the phone this weekend and he said was feeling many emotions that he had never felt before. He seemed to be at a loss for what to do next, what to say to his girlfriend or even how to support her family.
I found myself listening on the other end of the line, not quite knowing what to say or what more I could do to support him, other than to listen to him. To assure him that I loved him and to tell him the best thing he could do was talk about it and feel the sadness.
His situation began the thought process about my own potential death. I realized that his future mother-inlaw was much younger than I am and was apparently in good health.
Few people want to think about it, but at some point in our lives we need to address our own death. What I realized in this thought process was that if I suddenly died at this point in my life my sons would not only have to deal with a lot of emotions about losing a father they have always been close to, but they would have to deal with the hundreds of decisions and details that come with losing a loved one.
This prompted me to begin the process ofmaking some initial arrangements by getting out a notebook and making some notes about it. I didn’t realize I had so many thoughts about what I wanted. The more I wrote these thoughts down the more I realized how important this step was for my sons.
Once I had written down the arrangements I realized that since both boys live in another state and because I live alone, it would be difficult for them to take care of the legal responsibilities. I took the notebook to my home office and began writing down account numbers, and agencies such as insurance policies, property, vehicle numbers, bank accounts, retirement funds and the numerous other legal documents that are part of our lives.
Before I realized it I had completed an important aspect in preparing for my own potential unexpected death.
I talked to my son last night and as he sorts things out I sighed knowing that I took an important step in helping him deal with the details should I pass away.
It won’t make dealing with death any easier for either of my boys, but doing what I have done will help them in the process.

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