Where There’s a Will. . .There Are Relieved Relatives

Some months ago, I made a new will. The old one got left behind in the files of an attorney who died. His will stipulated that his office be packed up and closed, but not that his former clients know how to get their documents back. Put me in doubt about his ability to write a good will.

Old New England tombstones covered a lot of worry.

I’m not planning on dying anytime soon, which makes this the excellent time to write a will. On the other hand, none of us came to stay, so I might as well decide what I want to happen when I die. Note that I said “die” not pass away, pass on, pass, go Home, or other euphemisms. My body will die off. I don’t have a problem with that.

I am actually not afraid of death. I am terrified of becoming feeble and being at the mercy of medical care that is not aligned at all with the natural state of death. My insurance company decides who gets the transplants and who doesn’t, who lives and who dies. Oddly enough, the same company that doesn’t want to help you live well doesn’t want you to die, either.

So I created a document that spells out the conditions under which I want to be allowed to die. At some point, not determined by age alone, my body will reach the tipping point of interconnected biological collapse. Nature designs us to disintegrate, and I would like to have that happen without violent, invasive procedures performed by people who are hired not to think but to act, and in their lawyer’s best behalf, not mine. I want someone to make the same merciful decisions I made for a number of cats and dogs in my care.

My mother chose the path of natural death and it was one of the few things we agreed on. Well into her 90s, her mind gone and her body failing, those wishes were ignored. She had a Do Not Resuscitate Order which was ignored half a dozen times. By the time she was allowed to die, she had had her ribs broken from EMTs who didn’t check for med-alert bracelets. They thought of themselves as heroes. I did not.

My will covers what I want to happen to my body when it’s dead. (I’ve never been a fan of formaldehyde, and if people knew that embalming includes sewing your mouth shut through your nose and placing your organs in a plastic bag at your feet, they may choose a way to ensure that dust-to-dust actually happens.

Most of all, writing a will made me aware that I have work to do. Right now. I am not afraid to die, but I am afraid of not living fully. I don’t have a bucket list–it seems like a sad list of odd self-indulgence mixed with a weird competitive spirit of end of life achievement. I’m sticking to my to-do list. There are more interesting things I still have to do.

–Quinn McDonald plans on a few more accomplishments before she dies.