The art of dying as well as you lived
Till this virus came along the meme was all about living well. But the virus makes us think about whether we will die as well as we lived
Today I turn 100. To be accurate, today this column completes 100. IMHO, or In My Humble Opinion, began 100 weeks ago, It's considered extraordinary to hit 100 as a human being. May you live to be a 100 is a common blessing.
The UN estimates the world will have 3.2 million centenarians by 2050. The USA leads, with about 80,000 while Japan, in second place, has an estimated 47,700 and is home to the oldest living person on earth, Kane Tanaka, who turned 117 on January 2.
On that day, 27 people in Hubei province had already tested clinically positive for the virus now known as SARS-Cov-2. No one had died yet, though soon everyone would know that the novel coronavirus preferred the old and enfeebled. As I write this three months later, 1,311,533 people worldwide are sick with this virus, 50,858 of them in critical condition. Totally 114,270 have died.
The virus meanwhile has acquired a taste for humans of all ages. It can subtract a person from your life with a few moments' notice and no time for goodbyes, last words, regrets or hugs. Death will come alone, with loved ones watching helplessly through thick glass.
The virus has a question: you who lived so well, what can you do to ensure that you die as splendidly as you lived? This is the topic of my 100th column.
Dying well means tying up your life's loose ends well in time, not leaving a chaotic mess for your loved ones to sort out. You depart with grace and dignity, knowing that your last chapter was written by you. This simple list requires only a little regular time and thought from you while you are alive.
1. Make a Last Will. Most people die without making one, leaving their relatives to deal with years of legal and bureaucratic tangles, debts and paperwork. Be smart: make your Last Will as soon as you start owning things. Online sites will walk you through questions and compile your answers into a draft Last Will. Revise this every year as your circumstances change.
Designate a trusted executor, or better yet, leave it with a lawyer to whom you have given power of attorney.
2. Make a Living Will. Also known as the Advanced Care Directive, this is for that helpless condition in which you're alive but can no longer communicate, perhaps because of paralysis, Alzheimer's or a ventilator going into you. The Living Will spells out your wishes in matters of resuscitation, intubation or being kept alive in a vegetative state.
Leave your Living Will with a sibling or close relative, someone likely to be present during a medical crisis.
3. Plan your funeral. It's your death, why should someone else pay for it? Research your rites of passage and make choices of how and where you would like to be interred. Cost every item related to the disposal of your mortal remains. Create a funeral expenses fund, perhaps a joint account with someone you trust, or even money in a sealed envelope in a safe.
4. Acknowledge kindnesses. Our lives are full of kindnesses as much as they have misfortunes. Keep a record of these Samaritans who reaffirmed your faith in basic human decency, with their contact details. Thank them personally if health permits. If not, make sure their names will be read out and acknowledged for their kindnesses after you pass.
6. Say your sorries. We all owe apologies: subordinates judged unfairly, colleagues treated shabbily, loved ones let down. Draw up a list of those you have wronged, with their contact details. Meet them if possible, revisit that moment and say you're sorry. In the worst case, leave behind letters for despatch to each of them after you're gone.
7. Sort out your online afterlife. What should happen to social media profiles with their media posts, photos, thoughts, chats after you are gone? Facebook lets designated survivors delete such accounts or convert them into memorials in your aftermath. Google has the Inactive Account Manager through which you can "control what happens to your account when you stop using Google", i.e. kick the bucket.
8. List your passwords. Make a list of your log-in credentials for your bank accounts, online banking, credit and debit cards, investment portfolios and tax-related information like PAN and Aadhaar. Don't forget log-on details for your devices and email accounts. Oh, and secret questions too.
9. Who should be told? Who should be told at once? Within hours? Individually? By email within 24 hours? Who should be informed about the cremation or burial? Leave the list with a trusted friend, a close relative and a lawyer.
Now go live your life to the fullest. May you live to be a 100.
Here, viewed from there. C Y Gopinath, in Bangkok, throws unique light and shadows on Mumbai, the city that raised him. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org Send your feedback to email@example.com
The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper
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