What is the problem with death?
There’s a quotation, often wrongly attributed to Einstein and often misquoted. It goes like this, roughly: “if I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spent 55 minutes framing the problem and 5 minutes solving it”. So, I’m wondering, what is the problem with death?
I’m asking this question because I’m thinking about the year ahead. And I’m wondering what the best focus might be for Final Fling to continue to encourage people to plan for end of life.
Coincidentally, I’ve had an exchange with a Final Flinger, Anne, today who was looking for help and advice that also made me think, the problem with death very much depends on the person and context.
Whose problem is it anyway?
The problem with death for me (or at least my focus at the moment) is our death rites. Funerals are anachronistic, formulaic, gendered and expensive for their lack of impact and meaning. Which is why I was meeting yesterday with sister celebrants to talk about how we might change that.
On the other hand, for Anne, the problem with death is very different. She’s unwell and scared of dying. Estranged from her family, she feels a bit on her own in her decision-making. She’s jobless and without the means to financially caretake her end of life plans. The care of her pet after she dies is a worry too.
I’m a qualified life coach. In an hour’s coaching session, we do often spend 55 minutes talking round the issues just to try and get to the nub of the problem. And it is indeed often in the last 5 minutes of the session that we arrive at the often surprising hidden issue. This finally gets us to what the problem really is. It’s never really about over-eating. Nor about over-drinking or over-smoking. It’s not about lack of exercise, partner issues, needing more money, wanting a better job. Rarely is it any of the other things we tend to identify as our problems. 55 minutes in, we usually get to something deep and meaningful, like ‘how do I learn to love myself?’
I can’t help thinking that Anne needs help to love herself more than she needs help to organise her funeral. But at least I can help with the presenting problem.
3 simple steps to taking control
I was able to suggest these 3 simple steps:
- Rather than worrying about writing a Will, since she has no assets to speak of, she can use Final Fling to record Wishes. She can use our free and easy to use Life Planning Tools to record her funeral wishes and last wishes. At least that way she can pass instructions to her friend, Kate. By appointing Kate as her Keyholder, she can let her know whether she wants burial or cremation. She can state that she’d like a humanist celebrant. She can help Kate with difficult choices by saying she’d like a bit of Eddi Reader for her funeral music. She can even suggest everyone should dress in bright colours.
- If she can get the money together, Anne could pay for her funeral now by taking out a funeral plan. She can check out paying for a funeral for options.
- Anne can heck out the Dogs Trust’s Canine Care Card or talk to the RSPCA for advice on pet care after death.
It’s surprising how just taking a bit of control can impact on the otherwise abstract fear of dying.
Dr Carol Craig from the Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing has commissioned me to write a book for the Postcards from Scotland series, so I’m thinking maybe the title What is the Problem with Death? could be the starting point.
Meantime, for an easy-to-read guide to planning for the end on Final Fling, get a copy of my book Too Busy to Die.