Author Archive for Larry Patten

Facts (and Lies) On Death Certificates

causes of death How about a few thoughts on one of the most (least) popular items on your after-death to-do list?

Death certificates are among the most dismal of reading materials. But they are essential for the “business” after a loved one’s death. Since it takes time to order and acquire certificates, it’s better to purchase multiple copies. Tucking several extras into a file is likely better than scrambling to request more in the future.

On a practical note, the mortuary will probably handle the death certificate. Depending on the county, prices for certificates run the gamut from cheap to are-you-kidding! expensive. In the United States, official copies are obtained from a county clerk’s office*.

Insurance companies, banks, and similar institutions requiring proof of death frequently want the legal certificate issued with the county’s seal. However, with my parents’ estate, the companies that requested an official certificate versus those only needing a copy were never predictable. Read More →

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How Ornery are You?

the old Up guy

The ornery old man from Pixar’s 2009 film Up.

Humans can be remarkably empathetic and compassionate.

And we can also be, especially when facing the toughest of times, so darn ornery. In Joan Halifax’s Being with Dying, she wrote,

World religions scholar Huston Smith once told the story of a well-known psychologist, an ornery old man close to death. One morning, as he was struggling to get to the toilet, a nurse tried to help him. He snapped back at her, “I can do it myself!” Then he dropped to the floor dead. Smith used this story to illustrate just how defensive about needing help we are often are. He called this reaction ‘the porcupine effect.’

I agree with Smith’s “porcupine effect,” or . . . don’t touch me! Over the years of working with those close to death (and those caring for them) I have frequently heard a variation of the phrase: how you live is how you die. That may not be as true when death happens because of a car accident or an earthquake, but still . . .

During life, some are ornery like Smith’s “well-known psychologist,” and that’s exactly what they are like as they approach death. Read More →

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That Word . . . That Talk

Euphemisms

At one of the churches I served, I led a class entitled, “Living Fully, Dying Well.” It encouraged participants to learn about and share their views on . . . Death. I asked the group of mostly parents, ranging in age from 30s to 70s: “Did you ever have a talk with your kids about sex?”

A few had toddlers, and that talk was years away. A few never had kids: no need for the talk. But the majority, recently or decades before, raised their hands to acknowledge covering that subject with their kids.

“What about death?”

They stared at me.

“Have you told your children about what your thoughts are about death? About anything having to do with your wishes if you get a terminal illness, or what you want if you can’t make decisions?” Read More →

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