I just wrote my first “letter from the grave” to a friend. Weird, maybe, but I’ll explain why it isn’t a cause for concern.

I like to be organised. Being so makes me calm, and that makes me less likely to get frustrated and lash out. So it makes sense that I should try to be organised for the one thing over which I probably have very little control – my death.


I have made a will. If you have anything, even the smallest amount of things, and you don’t have a will, you are just making life more difficult for your family and friends. Whether you like it or not, death brings a lot of organisational headaches with it, many of which have to be faced at an emotionally fraught time. If you can ease their troubles by leaving a will, and/or some guidance as to what funeral arrangements you would want, and/or where you keep all the important information about your life…that will be helpful.

Of course, for someone of my age, it should be that this is all way in advance. But that’s the thing : you have to do this like you will be hit by a bus tomorrow. No chance to make arrangements, no time to tell people where things are, nothing. I live on my own and keep my personal matters very personal. So if my sister had to suddenly sort things out, they wouldn’t know how to find my money (what little there is), who to contact about the dogs, how large an arena to book for the inevitable outpouring of public grief, etc.


In addition to a will I have an Advance Decision which is also known as a Living Will. It does not tell doctors not to treat me, because rightly you cannot do that. What it does do is spell out in detail how I feel about end of life care, and the balance I hold between living, and existing. For me, there is no value in being kept alive on a ventilator. None. Zero. I do not want to be kept alive for the 1 thousandth of a percent chance I might make a miracle improvement. I am happy to be allowed to die. Just try to keep me comfortable.

I do not fear death but I rightly fear the process. The phrase I use, taken from an old version of the documents that my parents both held is as such :

I do not fear death : I fear the degeneration and indignity that can accompany incapacitating illness, old age or dying.

I also have a Death Book, so titled in honour of my father. He did all the finances for our family, an arrangement that suited my mum just fine as she did not care to stare at columns of numbers like that, so he left details in case he suddenly passed. I have therefore tried to do the same for my sisters or others who might have to clear up my life if an accident were to happen. It will never be perfectly up to date, as things change so regularly, but the important stuff is there, along with the relevant pieces of paper, all in a box that should withstand the flood or fire that might just have killed me !

The last thing, and this is the bit I have just begun, is that I wish to leave a note to the small number of people that I have remembered in my will. I would like them to know why I have opted to remember them. It is not an insignificant thing, even if the money might end up being insignificant. Because I mean something very important with my bequests. If I have left a pound to someone, it is to show that they had an impact on my life that stood above lots of other perfectly lovely people. So each person is getting a short letter, sealed in a temper-proof envelope.

Also, and this is why I am so pleased to have found an inexpensive will service. If I die tomorrow, there might be one hundred pounds to give away. If I die in thirty years, there might be only a pound left over. Right now, my hundred pounds would not be of great value to some people because they already have some pounds. But others in my life would be desperate to receive just a few of those pounds. Life situations change, and I would like to think that a tragic accident for me, might lead to a small but sad benefit to someone at a more challenging part of their life.

It is a shame that the film Pay It Forward wasn’t very good, because the idea is absolutely the right one.

Now – back to the letters.

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