Friday, January 18, 2008


She was a 45 year old single woman with an ex husband and a 13 year old son. Her parents had previously died; her mother when she was in her thirties and her father died just within the last year from lung cancer. Her only brother had been killed in a car crash as a teenager and she had no known relatives or legal next of kin. I don't know the specifics surrounding her divorce nor do I know why her ex husband had custody of their child but those were the current circumstances.

According to her significant other, they were both reunited almost one year ago after he had found her on the Internet at some reunion website. Her significant other had been the child of an army career man and they had always travelled all around the country; that was how the two originally met. They had been young teens together and had a relationship/friendship which lasted approximately 2 and 1/2 years before he had to leave with his parents. They had kept in touch for a few more years and then for some unknown reason the friendship had just ended.

When he found her she was already divorced and living on her own. It wasn't but two months after they had gotten together again that she herself was diagnosed with lung cancer but they both thought that the treatments that she chose to undergo had nipped it in the bud.

Two days before she died her boyfriend had visited the funeral home explaining that she was being taken care of by Hospice and her death was imminent. He wanted to be sure that her wishes were followed; it was then that I discovered all of the above as well as the fact that he held her POA. At that point he had the right to authorize her cremation (her wish) but did not want to fill out any paperwork; he only wanted information. I explained to him that her POA would cease upon her death and his rights would cease as well yet he outright refused to sign the authorization even after I explained the delays it would cause.

When the call came in advising us of her death I knew that this was going to be a drawn out procedure waiting for a court to appoint someone who could legally make this decision.

He came in with his parents as well as a bible which had been her fathers; he wanted to point out the biblical passage that she wanted in her obituary. Don't ask me what made me do it but after I had copied the passage I flipped to the front of the book where family history was written down and after reading it I thought that her father had a sister who had never been mentioned. I was thrilled at the prospect!

Upon returning to the arrangement conference I mentioned the sister, her aunt, and he had no clue of her existence. He had no idea of an aunt at all let alone if she was living or not. I suggested contacting her ex and was told that one of her wishes was not to tell either the ex or her child until after she had been cremated.

I have to tell you, the deceased woman, this man and I were very lucky that day. I took the aunts name down and went to my office; the Internet that got the two of them together also helped me to locate the aunt for him. I found what I thought might be her number and address and passed it on to the boyfriend along with a cell phone. He called the number and it was her! She had never married and was still living in the state she was born...and...luckily had a published phone number and on top of it all had still been in contact with her niece!

Ultimately, she agreed to sign the authorization which was faxed to her and then back to me with her notarized signature. If it hadn't been for this discovery and her approval I'm sure she would still be waiting to be cremated.

The reason I mention this today is, this woman didn't expect to die, her boyfriend didn't foresee this, and especially the aunt didn't expect any of this but crap like this must happen all the time. I know I sound like a broken record, like my words are stuck in a loop but in order to prevent something like this happening to us, we have to make sure that it doesn't happen and we have to make sure now. If you're alone now or have the slightest inkling that you may be someday, shit, even if you're not and don't, some day you may be! Talk to a funeral director, a lawyer if necessary, just do something while you can!


paisley said...

my feeling on this has always been i don't give a shit what they do with me.... what say you about people like me?????

MedStudentWife said...

Good question Paisley - I too have felt the same. Having Fidel around has made me think differently, but if he weren't, I'd still be feeling, "Im gone,so do with me as you like".

Good advice, tho' DS. And I am happy that it ended well so easily - but then and again, its because of your high level of client service :)

Catherine said...

Does this mean that I can talk with a funeral director and sign an authorization form and my wishes will be carried out?

Thank you in advance.

deathsweep said...

Catherine - the only time that your wishes could be changed is if your next of kin decides to change them. The hope is that they will want to follow your wishes (and "usually" do). Signing the authorization form yourself surely expresses your wishes and is undoubtedly the answer if there is NO ONE left.

deathsweep said...

Paisley - I myself am of a similar mindset, not caring what is done with my dead body (for different reasons) but as long as the law remains the same, someone, even a court, has to bear the responsibility (or burden at times) of your bodys disposition. Something has to be done with our bodies, they can't just lay there forever. Perhaps body donation is the way for you, let them choose how they want to use it. There are institutions that will take you free of charge...but...even with this choice...someone has to make it known and approve it.

deathsweep said...

MSW - What I was trying to stress was that no matter what we want or don't want done with our bodies, someone has to be responsible for that choice. Having Fidel around is a 50/50 chance, same as with me but having no one...well...let's face it, even saying "I don't care" is a choice that needs to be made known.

MedStudentWife said...

good point DS.. never really thought about it this way !!

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