Dying Right: Designing Your Destiny

Over the past year, I have watched my Mother and my Grandmother die.

Both women were proactive people who took care of business well before it had to get done. All of the costs and their funeral services were planned so that there wasn’t a lot to do in organizing it.

They both wanted their deaths to be as painless for their loved ones as possible and were able to achieve it for the most part.

However, I have learned a lot through this experience and I’d like to share with you some of my thoughts on the subject of dying.

Death always comes suddenly.

No matter how old or sick someone is, it seems like the end is always abrupt. With this comes the feeling like things are left unsaid. There is no more chance to make it right. It is over. It is really over.

People die in different ways. Sometimes they pass away suddenly from some type of stroke or massive heart attack. Sometimes they have had a lengthy illness which slowly robbed their bodies of its strength. Sometimes they just die of old age where the cumulative failure of bodily systems is too much for the organism to continue functioning.

Whatever the case is, when any of these things happen it is already too late to design your destiny and take care of as many things as you can.

Here are the things I believe will help you enjoy life more and leave a legacy of grace and greatness.

This first list is about taking care of formalities.

1. Get your Will written and up to date.

2. Write specific instructions for the disposal of your remains and prepay the costs including the site.

3. Write your own obituary.

4. Write letters to loved ones to be sent when you die to make sure you say the things you want to say to them. You can also record videos or audios to leave behind to say the things you may want to say in case of an untimely passing.

5. If you have a safety deposit box or other types of sealed secured storage vessels, make sure there are several people that you trust to be on the list of qualified accessibility. (I would suggest removing and closing these things and giving them to the person of your choice while you can. After death it can be a bit of a hassle and messy.)

6. Get your debts paid off.

7. Create a list of all of your accounts with usernames and passwords where necessary. Bank accounts, credit cards, retirement accounts, insurance policies, email accounts…

This second list is about leaving behind a generous legacy without a mess.

1. Purge your belongings every year of things you no longer need, use, or want. Sell it, donate it, gift it, or trash it. The main thing here is not to leave behind a mess for your loved ones to dispose of.

2. I suggest designating the bulk of your things to be given to a charitable foundation for use as they see fit.

3. In the Will only designate things of real value to be given to specific people. Nobody needs your junk. Give things of quality.

4. Keep an updated inventory of your stuff. Not only does that make the disposal of your estate easier but it is also good to know what you have, how much it is worth, and it forces you to question the need for it.

You are going to heaven, not on a vacation.

Imagine for a moment that you were going on a vacation for a long period of time. All you take with you are the things you need for the trip. Suddenly it occurs to you that you actually don’t need most of the stuff you have because you didn’t miss it on the trip. If you can live without something for two weeks, maybe you don’t need it anymore.

Death is not something you return from. You aren’t coming back. The journey is just you and you don’t need anything for it.

Take pictures of your home, your closets, your possessions and be completely honest with yourself. Do you like what you see, or do you see a mess? Do you see a lot of useless clutter or well-chosen pieces that have value? Do you have 20 old robes, or shirts, or pairs of shoes that you haven’t worn in years?

If being a Christian is important to you what did Jesus say about worldly possessions? “It is harder for a rich man to get into heaven than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.” What about, “Leave everything you have, pick up your cross and follow me.”

When you die you can’t take it with you. You are preparing to meet Jesus, wouldn’t one way to show your seriousness about your path with him is to at the very least be able to relieve yourself of the worldly weight of possessions. If you can’t do it at the time of your death and you are getting ready to meet Jesus for real, then honestly, were you ever really a follower?

I’m not saying getting rid of the resources that you need for your end of life expenses, but I am saying to let go of everything you can, so that you can leave the world the same way you came into it, with nothing but your birthday suit.

Shouldn’t one of your most cherished ways of preparing yourself to follow Jesus into heaven be by the symbolic act of giving up your possessions?

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have assets to leave to your loved ones, what I am saying is that just don’t leave them your garbage.

Nobody knows when death will come, nor do we know when we will stop being able to do the things I have discussed above. In order to leave a legacy of true value and honor, I believe we must live in a way that reflects that.

It takes a lot of energy and emotional strength to let go of things you spent money buying in the past, or to let go of sentimental gifts that mean so much to you. But, it is a necessity to live that way.

It is only possible when you are feeling strong and healthy. Once you get sick or weak, you will no longer do it.

Designing your destiny is one of the most beautiful things that a person can do for their loved ones.

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