Preparing for an Untimely Death

Recently I attended a class at the Family Firm Institute where our instructor posed the question: how do you handle illness or death with one of your clients? For me, my answer will always be: you show up, listen, empathize and hug.

In the case study that we used to examine this issue, the family business had no succession or transition plan and the President had just been diagnosed with a terminal illness. The thing that stood out to me as I read the case study was that he had been diagnosed a week prior but hadn’t shared that information with anyone yet. He wanted to get all his ducks in a row before telling his wife and family (who all work in the business). WOW!

I can’t imagine getting that kind of scary news and not sharing it with those close to me. As I was reading the case study all I wanted to do was hug this man, listen to him and offer as many tools and resources we have at the CFBC to help ease his mind.

This has prompted me to share three things that helped me when I lost my mom. I’m grateful that my mom had time to prepare for her death. She taught me a lot about grace, faith, love, humility and dignity during that year.

Consider pre-arranging your funeral.

My mom wanted to pre-arrange her funeral but didn’t have the emotional courage to go to the funeral home and face her foreseeable death. When she asked me to do it for her she said, “I know it will be hard for you but I’ll sleep better knowing it’s done and that you won’t have to worry about it when I’m gone”.

Pre-arranging my mom’s funeral gave her peace. And later on, when my emotions were at their highest, I didn’t have to worry about planning the details of a funeral.

Take the opportunity to open up dialogue and share cherished memories.

I took my mother’s wish list and learned how to plan and pay for a funeral in advance. They asked me to write her obituary and I realized that there where facts, dates and people that should be mentioned that I didn’t know off the top of my head. I was grateful my mom was still there and we could write it together. That exercise helped unfold wonderful stories that my mom shared with me over that weekend - it was priceless.

We also started a list that had all of her information, contacts, accounts and medical history. I knew who to call for what at all times - everything was on two pages that I carried in my purse. During her last days in hospice that list was extremely valuable to me. I was too emotionally flooded to remember details.

Put together your Crash Card.

The resource we’ve created to help with this process is called the Crash Card. The Crash Card serves as a “just in case” form. The idea is to complete it now so your family won’t have to dig through information later. Hopefully, when emotions are high it will be one of the last gifts you can leave your family.

Click here to download the Crash Card template.

I wish you great health, peace of mind and hugs in case you need one!


Judy Headshot 2015 FINAL
Have a joyful day,
Judy Hogel
CFBC Executive Director

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