This month’s blog is a guest article by a friend of Inverroy, someone who felt so strongly about a recent issue that he volunteered to do an article for our blog…
The Ultimate Disaster – The Unexpected Death of a Loved One
by Sandy Williams
“While this may be a sad story, it does have a happy ending. It’s a tale of the death of my Mum, unexpectedly. This story is how we recovered (kind of) from this situation, spared my Dad some additional pain and coped – giving her a wonderful funeral.
The reason for writing this article is to share some of the lessons we learned as we went through this sad process, in the hope that we can help you be better prepared and, therefore, help ease your pain when dealing with some of the inevitable problems that arise when (not if) you have to deal with the death of a loved one.
It was early on a Sunday morning and the home phone rang at 4:40am. I thought “Who the hell could that be?” because almost nobody has our phone number. I reluctantly climbed out of bed and went to grab the phone, but it rang off before I got to it. Dialling 1471 told me that the the call was from my parent’s house. I then checked my cell phone, which was on silent mode, and saw two missed calls from my Dad and one from my sister. I said to my wife “Oh, sh*t, Dad and my sister are both calling me”.
I called home to be told that Mum had an abscess on her bowel and that it had burst, a condition called ‘Diverticulitis’. Mum had been taken to the local infirmary by ambulance, and my sister, who’s a GP, had been called by the medics in the hospital after they’d done their tests/scans. Apparently, the medics had said to Mum “we need to operate on you or you’ll die”. Her response was “Call my daughter, she’s a doctor, I’m not ready to give up!”. My sister discussed the options and made the right decision – operate.
Mum made it through the surgery and the next morning her vital signs were stable. However, later in the day her kidneys started to shut down, as did her other vital organs. She never regained consciousness and, surrounded by family, she passed away very peacefully on Sunday at 8:10 pm at the young age of 77 years.
Losing our Mum unexpectedly in this way threw our family into a tailspin of grief, sadness and upset. Everybody deals with the grief in a different way. We all rallied around to assist Dad and realised that just like in any company, everybody has differing ability to deal with things so the question was who could do what.
We met with the funeral organiser on the Monday who had already collected the death certificate from the hospital, sparing us that ordeal. Totally unprepared, we were told we had to register the death with the registrar at the local council. However, in order to register the death with the Council you need an appointment, and these are not always readily available. We had to travel from Dumfries to Lockerbie to get the only available appointment the next day.
We learned that to register the death you need the following:
Medical certificate of cause of death.
National insurance number.
National health number.
Birth certificate (and or details of parents full name, occupation date of birth).
Passport (or number).
Driving license number.
For more details visit https://www.gov.uk/register-a-death.
We had then to do a troll of paperwork going back 20 years to compile this data, as well as start to notify friends and family…. we were totally unprepared.
My parents had all of their ‘stuff’ going back years. Bank statements, tax statements, house insurance, car insurance, pension information, family paperwork (deaths, births, marriages etc). After about four hours of searching I had located the majority of the paperwork.
The one telephone call I tried to make resulted in me breaking down in tears after saying to a relation ‘Hi William, this is Sandy Williams, it’s been a while since we’ve been in touch, but my Mum passed away….’ and my wife had to steal the phone from me. Notifying people was not my forte….
My sister set to with Mum’s Filofax to notify people of Mum’s unexpected death. While my sister was just as upset as I was, her medical experience meant she was more able to deal with this than I was. What was also apparent was that there was no such thing as a quick call. Everybody was shocked and wanted to know more information, so my advice is to plan on spending lots of time notifying people (much much more than you expect).
We never did find Mum’s Birth Certificate!
And then the funeral ceremony…..
Between tears, heartache and pain preparing a Eulogy is tough! Our format was:
Childhood, early life, upbringing,
We did not know Mum’s hymn/music choice and what she would want. Would you? Can you address that now?
We chose three lovely hymns. What would your family choose for themselves?
Once you have the death certificate, you will need multiple copies, known as ‘extracts’ to provide to banks, building societies etc along with proof that you have power to work for their estate. We made sure we had 5 extracts at £10 per extract.
Additional things you may also want to find are:
Any Powers of Attorney
Advice to Families
In order to be prepared for such an event my advice to all families (forget about age – you can be hit by a bus at anytime) is to ensure that your loved ones know the following (or can have access to this information in the event of a death):
Details of all bank accounts
Details of any premium bond accounts
Login details for all financial accounts
Having a conversation about such things, with young or ageing parents, may be a bit of a ‘delicate’ issue but providing them with this article may help bridge a gap.
How prepared are you to register a death and have the required paperwork?
Ideally, even if you do not have the original paperwork, electronic versions are becoming more acceptable and having a scanned version of key documents would help you have all the details you may need.”
what did we learn about managing the crisis?
Quite simply, we learned to plan for the unexpected; and that no matter how difficult the conversations are or how much we didn’t want to think about it, we should have done. No one wants to think of their families grieving whilst trying to find information or having to make a ‘best guess’ about what we would want in terms of a funeral so we need to volunteer that information to others while we can but also make sure we understand the wishes of those closest to us. I also wouldn’t wait until after a diagnosis to broach subjects like this because it becomes immeasurably harder. It’s never too early to plan ahead but also to make sure your key documents are in one place, just in case.
Thank you to Sandy for his open and honest account of such a difficult time. The death of a loved one is an incredibly tough event so the more prepared you can be, the better. Like any resilience issue, prior planning when you have a clear head and some extra time will make the tough times easier. Many people learn lessons the first time they go through a situation like this so why not learn from the lessons of others instead?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Artificial Lift Performance Ltd