Chapter 1. Investigating Life Insurance
Sharing details of my wife’s battle with breast cancer, my story includes failures and successes when pre-planning for end-of-life. The questions of who should buy life insurance, why they need it, and what are the types of life insurance are answered by the contributions of a seasoned insurance agent. By the end of the chapter, the reader will have a comprehensive understanding of this subject, empowering them to start the process of ensuring their family will be financially secure after they are gone.
Chapter 2. Developing Your Estate Plan
Written by an expert financial professional and wealth advisor, along with pieces of my own story, this chapter explores the benefits of financial planning through Wills and Trusts. Pre-planning goes beyond saving money for retirement and hoping there is enough. The contributing author explains how protecting your assets (personal or business) and designating proper distribution can eliminate strife between your survivors, giving them the gift to focus on healthy grieving, rather than deal with potential family chaos.
Chapter 3. Giving the Gift of Organ Donation
A lack of knowledge about organ donation fuels misconception and often paralyzes a person from taking the next step. How does one become an organ and/or tissue donor, who qualifies to receive these gifts, who pays for it, and what does a person’s faith say about organ and tissue donation? Each of these questions are explored and answered leaving one with enough information to make a well-informed decision to become a donor.
Chapter 4. Receiving Hospice Care
A lack of knowledge about hospice, not cost, is the reason this invaluable service is underutilized. Revealing the steps to find and interview a hospice provider removes the stigma that hospice is only for terminal cancer patients. My friend Rena, a registered nurse and hospice administrator, opens the door to this incredible work provided by some of the nicest people I know. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization provides in-depth knowledge as one of the country’s leading overseeing entities.
Chapter 5. Struggling with Sudden Death
A collection of contributing authors makes this chapter authentic, engaging, and relatable. The story of my dad’s death; the importance of the Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) document; suicide; a retired Fire Captain and volunteer chaplain who has informed survivors of death for over 40 years; a local Coroner’s Office Investigator offers additional facts and perspective unknown to most of the population; and insight into sudden death through the eyes of first responders. Throughout the chapter, a message of guidance and hope is relayed to survivors.
Chapter 6. Coping with Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss
Approximately 15 – 20% of women experience miscarriage, although it is believed it to be much higher. My good friends Cassie and Carolyn share their stories along with my friend Dr. John Armstrong who shares from a medical perspective as well as an emotional recovery. A question so often asked of clergy regarding this topic is whether or not to have a funeral or memorial? By looking at miscarriage and stillbirth through the eyes of the law, contrasted with an emotional and faith perspective, two perspectives are offered with an invitation to explore.
Chapter 7. Clarifying Bereavement Leave
Only one state in the U.S. has a law covering bereavement leave. Therefore, your company’s policy and your ability to negotiate will dictate your time off. This chapter encourages negotiation and reveals proven negotiation strategies. In addition, the topics of how an employee can prepare to return to work and how an employer can prepare to receive them are discussed.
Chapter 8. Choosing the Right Funeral Home
Written by an experienced funeral director, combined with pieces of my own story, the myths and fears of this industry are dismantled. The humanity and compassion of the funeral director and staff are revealed, and the insight offered on pitfalls to avoid and negotiation techniques sheds light on an industry most people know little about.
Chapter 9. Planning a Funeral or Memorial Service
Designing a funeral or memorial service is something most people will experience either through their own pre-planning or planning that of a family member. The beauty of pre-planning is that you make the decisions for your own service. If you forego pre-planning, a survivor will have to make those decisions for you, all while grieving and processing life after you are gone. Based on years of experience, this chapter breaks down every component of a service and offers suggestions using categories of the service and terminology everyone can relate to from the officiant’s perspective.
Chapter 10. Understanding Your Health Insurance
Understanding your insurance policy/coverage should be your first step in selecting your coverage. This chapter articulates the differences to assist you in making choices. Medical billing can be confusing in and of itself but trying to figure it out while grieving can be debilitating. The importance of building a team is emphasized for documenting medical events during a prolonged illness or hospitalization. A thorough accounting will be immensely beneficial when faced with hospital bills after the death of a loved one. Tips on negotiating with the hospital on final billing is offered, along with strategies to partner with your medical insurance company to ensure accurate billing.
Chapter 11. Applying for Veterans Benefits
Unfortunately, many veterans miss out on potential benefits because they do not file their DD214 form with their local Veterans Administration Office. Without this critical first step, benefits cannot be received. Using this fact with a story from a local VA counselor, veterans are encouraged to initiate benefits by enrolling. Death benefits are explored in great detail allowing the veteran to plan ahead or the survivor(s) to act on his/her behalf for entitled benefits.
Chapter 12. Accessing Social Security Benefits
For a government entity whose sole purpose is to help people, why is it so difficult to understand whether you qualify based on their guidelines? In this chapter, I share how I learned the culture of the SSA through my mistakes and then as trustee managing the affairs of my family. Using the SSA’s own website, the reader is encouraged to become a student of the SSA before becoming a consumer.
Chapter 13. Grieving Your Loss
Being on the journey to recovery is different than immersing yourself in the journey to recovery. One is passive, while the other requires action. The story of my journey through grief after the death of my brother, wife, mother, and father combined with the contribution of Kathryn, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, offer a hope-filled look into a healthy path to recovery. As Reverend Billy Graham once said, “Time doesn’t heal, it’s what you do with that time that brings healing.”
Afterword—Now It’s Time!
Now it’s time to put your plan into action. With a systematic approach in preparing for end-of-life, your survivors will inherit your plan instead of your problems, allowing them to grieve in a healthy way as your wishes are carried out. Make this part of your legacy!
Appendix A: Survivor Checklist
The shock of losing a loved one often leaves family members in a state of shock, with their cognitive thinking significantly impaired. Having a checklist to follow takes away the guesswork and guides the survivor(s) through next steps regarding topics such as legal, financial, insurance, and more. Through narrative and diagrams, this chapter also discusses the importance of building a support team to help ease the survivor’s burden.
Appendix B: Order of Service Templates
“It’s like planning a wedding” is a phrase I have heard before. This chapter breaks down the components of a funeral/memorial and teaches how to develop a flow for a memorable service. Too often a family has the big picture in mind, but no idea how to achieve it, ranging from flowers, pictures, music, open or closed casket, message, guest speakers, graveside service, reception, and special gifts. Describing service components and templates for three types of services provides easy steps for the survivor(s) to follow.