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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money

Death Over Dinner

Two major events for me happened this month. One, my cousin was killed in a traffic accident involving him on a bicycle and a car. The car of course won in spite of Dook taking all the right precautions as he traveled on a course he had ridden hundreds of times. And while his death was sudden, tragic and unexpectedly early (he was only 65!), as a lawyer I am reasonably certain that he was prepared with all the necessary documents in place to make for a smooth transition for his loved ones.

The second major event was my getting my first issue of the AARP Bulletin in the mail. For those of you who are too young, this is a monthly newspaper of sorts with all kinds of articles, tips and "helps" for those of us who are over 50! What struck me as I read this issue was a small picture and "blurb" about an event called "On death and dining" where people gather over dinner and talk about end of life issues. While it seems that we no longer have many taboos (think of all the advertisements for personal care items and reality TV shows) death and the way we want to die are still a subject many people want to cover their ears and not address.

There are a couple of websites dealing with the issues and the "Death over " is one I particularly like because it has articles, videos and audio files on various issues surrounding death that are good background and conversation starters. The topics range from spiritual, environmental, cost, and suffering. The idea is to plan a dinner, invite friends and family, sends links to articles and videos and come together to talk. Talking is the key.

Often times there are situations where one is incapacitated due to accident or illness and is unable to speak their wishes. If you have had a conversation with friends and family about your wishes for care in these situations, you are ahead of the game. But keep in mind that those are very emotionally charged situations and friends and family may not follow your wishes because of their own emotional ties to you. Friends may not be allowed to even express your wishes if they are not officially next of kin. In addition to talking about your wishes, you need to put things in writing, make legal documents out of your desires. There are several documents that can speak for you when you cannot speak for yourself. These include power of attorney for health care, living wills and Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders in addition to standard property wills.

Make a New Year's resolution to start the conversation with family and friends. It doesn't have to be morbid-in fact I challenge you to add some humor or levity to the evening. In the AARP article-one person recently held a death party for 17 relatives and friends and everyone wore fake mustaches. Another good starter would be a movie-one of my favorites is "Defending Your Life" with Merle Streep and Albert Brooks.

Someone has to take the risk and start the conversation.


Have you attended or hosted a similar event to a "death dinner"? Tell us about it below. What worked, what didn't, what would you change? I'd be interested to know before I host my dinner this spring!

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I am holding my first 'death over breakfast' on Dec.21st...and then holding a 'death over lunch' on Jan 6th to coincide with the 721 Project. the best time to talk is when family and friends gather in celebration this season of miracles, and may the miracle of the conversation begin....... check back with me after Sat. and we can talk more..... If not now, when....
by kathleen barreca on Tuesday 12/17/2013

What great plans! I will be anxious to hear how it went!
by Pam Atkinson on Wednesday 12/18/2013