The living taking care of those who’ve moved on

This is “Life on Earth” for those of us who are still earth-bound, and trying to clean up behind those who are no longer terrestrially constrained.

And it isn’t easy, it isn’t pretty, it isn’t quick and it’s never “clean,” but we can do this – Because that’s the commitment we made.

From a business perspective, the worst is over, or well on its way. And because you’re working from THE BOOK or the list or whatever it is that you guys put together to guide the one left behind, this is all infinitely easier than it would have been without – Trust me.

So, here are a few somewhat miscellaneous and definitely random thoughts to consider as we try to put all of this to bed like, do we need to address the name(s) on titled vehicles? Other titled property?

And did we inform/work with creditors, credit card companies and various and sundry accounts? Close what needed to be closed?

And are we keeping pretty good notes about what’s been negotiated with whom on what day about what? I know it feels like you’ll NEVER forget – but you will. Take notes, then glance at them the next morning to see if they’d make any sense to you six months from now.

You notified home, business and auto insurance companies, right?

What adjustments do we need to make our checking accounts and/or savings accounts and/or investment accounts and/or safety deposit box?

Remember, you are “you” now, not “us,” so what needs to change?

And here’s one that can be a real ambush: INCOME TAXES! That’s right, the fact that somebody has the nerve to die doesn’t exempt them from being non-exempt, so he/she may owe taxes for all or part of the previous tax year. You want to keep whatever records would be necessary to pull this off, and you want to be emotionally “ready” – Well, as “ready” as any of us can ever get.

As we’ve been doing what needs to be done these last few weeks, some rather remarkable people have shared some good thoughts with me, so allow me to share them with you. On the subject of “tying up loose ends,” I’ve heard: CLEAN THE GARAGE! (No kidding – think about it) and I’ve heard that if you have a houseful of antiques, go around with a video camera and record what each piece is, who it might go to and what it might be worth, so the kids or grandkids don’t haul it off to the second-hand store.

I’ve heard that, if you have lots of hobby or craft items, like a woodworking shop or jewelry or whatever, either sell them, price them or give them to someone who understands them! Don’t leave your spouse wondering what to do with the gun collection that she might be afraid to touch or using that $300 piece of ebony for firewood!

I had thought I might conclude all this with the story of my mother’s passing, but now I think not; no, I think I’m pretty much done with death, at least for now, and you probably are, too.

Nature, it’s said, abhors a vacuum, and death leaves a hole – a hole that will be filled with something: tears, depression, isolation, alcohol, drugs, illness, etc, or life, people pets, involvement work, family, happy memories or some combination thereof, but be filled it will! May you choose to remain among the living.

I was contacted by a lady who told me that, even after 12 years, she still “…couldn’t let him (her deceased husband) go.” I think she hoped that I’d have an answer – I didn’t, and I don’t.

But as we talked, I heard a lady who was alive: she was involved with, and cared deeply about her family, she had hobbies of her own, she was certainly nobody’s fool and her sense of humor was intact. She missed him terribly and was very lonely – but “alive.”

So maybe it’s all in how we interpret what we experience. The pain of the loss, she said, has never lessened or gone away, and from listening, I doubt that it ever will; yet, I know people who would give anything to have what she has. Is she a victim? I don’t think so. Is she just looking for attention? No.

Her pain – Her loss – Is very real, and it’s real every day. She’s done all the “right” stuff, near as I can tell, but she still hurts. How come?

Well, she describes a deep, true, all-day-every-day love – a best friend – who’s gone. And if you’ve had that, is it reasonable to expect that the pain will ever go away? I don’t know, but I’m inclined to suspect probably not. Maybe that’s the price we pay for grabbing the brass ring! When something is that good, it’s bound to cost dearly.

So, would we decline the prize, out of fear? Not me. I would – I have – accepted gratefully, knowing full well that I’m taking my chances.

We don’t generally think about “warm” until we start to get cold, and we don’t generally think about “light” until it starts to get dark. Maybe we wouldn’t take the time to appreciate – to live – life if it weren’t for the inevitability of death. Maybe not.

I’ll go my own way and you’ll go yours, but we’ll all end up calling it the same thing: Life on Earth.

Mark Harvey is the director of Senior Information and Assistance for Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He can be reached at or 532-0520 in Aberdeen, (360) 942-2177 in Raymond or (360) 642-3634. FACEBOOK: Olympic Area Agency on Aging-Information & Assistance.