While looking through some magazines the other day I ran across a couple of books that I had been thinking about purchasing. The first was the The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson. It is a book about going through one’s own “stuff” before death and getting rid of what you don’t need or want any more. The idea behind such a “cleansing” is to make life easier on the loved ones left behind who usually have to sort through these things. The other part of this cleaning is to clearly mark who will receive those things that often don’t get include in the Will.
Before my mother died, she distributed to her children those things that she felt each child would like to receive or maybe would appreciate the most. Personally, I received a lot of books. Some of these books had been my Grandfather’s. Others were antiques and could be kept or sold. Some were really worth very little if anything at all and were recycled.
At first I thought her efforts to make these offers to her children and grandchildren were too much. Not too much in any dollars and cents way of thinking, but in a more morbid way. She was preparing to die.
At the time I was likely shocked, but as I have come to study and learn about dying and death, I can see a real value in this exercise. I have a box (a good-sized box) of old photos. As I look through them as I have done occasionally, I recall the story behind each photo. Then I ask myself if my children or grandchildren will know these stories. Generally, they will not unless they are told. Unless the photos are dated and people named they might mean more, but even that is questionable. Fortunately today photos can be taken and categorized more easier, but are they?
Death cleaning is such a valuable exercise.
The other book that is of interest to me is entitled I’m Dead, Now What? by Peter Pauper Press. This book is a resource type book that helps with our death cleaning. Part of its introduction reads “This practical and not at all morbid book walks you through the important stuff: personal information, medical information, key contacts …personal wishes and last words.” Now, of course, it would be ideal if such matters were thoroughly discussed with loved ones before hand, but that rarely seems to happen.
I realize that very few of us care to discuss these types of issues, least of all with loved one. Yet, as much as we might hope otherwise, death is going to happen to us all at some point. Age is not a factor. Our health may not be a factor either. We have all known of someone who has “left this earth far too soon”, yet for some reason we put off preparing. Even those who have a strong belief system that they are going to a better place may put off the inevitable.
We might claim that “life is uncertain, so eat dessert first”, yet how many of us really believe it?