Let’s talk: have your loved ones planned for their future? 24

The Tough Stuff


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We have all lost, or nearly lost, somebody close to us. When the time came, were their wishes clear, or did it create conflict?

One year ago, my brother was preparing for major bowel cancer surgery. It was a huge full-day operation – the equivalent of five procedures in one – with a real risk that he might not wake up on the other side.

In the difficult days before, he wrapped up his affairs and finances; he had heart-to-heart conversations with each and every loved one. Finally, he went over his medical wishes in great detail, covering every possible outcome. Where did he draw the line between life and quality of life? Who would be allowed to speak for him?

My brother was extraordinarily lucky; he made it through and is well on his way to his former healthy self.

He was also lucky in another way: he had advance warning; the chance to prepare; to opportunity to confront the difficult questions on his terms.

On the flipside, I have seen my husband’s close-knit family deal with incredible tension over their mother’s more ambiguous final wishes. When the time came, she was beyond the ability to speak for herself. Despite the best intentions of all concerned, and the very similar beliefs and morality they shared, everybody had a different view about what was ‘right’.

The decision to end life support was fraught with uncertainty; it took a long time for the whole family to ultimately accept it as the best one; time that was miserable for their mother and very stressful for them.

Starts at 60 has partnered with MyValues, a free online service, to help make the most difficult times that little bit easier. With a few easy clicks, you (or a loved one) can lock down your wishes, shaping vital decisions from doctors and family should the worst happen.


When you lost a loved one, were their wishes clear? And how has it changed plans for your own future?

This Let’s Talk discussion is sponsored by MyValues and written by the Starts at 60 editorial team. For more information about this free, invaluable online service, visit the MyValues website.


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  1. There is nothing like a death in the family to bring out the best or worst in members of that family. I did experience that I would never wish it on anyone else. It seems that the those who put the least effort into looking after someone when they are ill think they deserve the most. Very sad

    3 REPLY
    • Me too Judith. After 60 years of love, my eldest sister and I no longer talk, so sad. Parents should always leave ALL their children as executors of their will, not just the one. In my case, there was no discussion with the other four beneficiaries, she thought she could just do and take as she pleased. Will never get over it.

    • Me too. I was ‘the one’ in the tough times for my mother all her life. And she also returned love to me. In her last few years, other family members stepped it up (she was in care then). She turned against me for a while, I could not ‘fix’ old age. Luckily this came good for her last 2 years.
      I tend to say that her funeral service was ‘hijacked’. Talk, talk, talk, so many eulogies – she hated that sort of thing. Inevitable Fallout. Which in hindsight had been simmering for years anyway. Thank heavens for my sons and wives. The other side mostly seemed to forget that it was actually MY mother who died. And MY boys had her in their whole growing up years. Jealousy?What a circus – and she was a dignified lady who ‘baked the scones for the wake’ so to speak, she did not attend many funerals.
      I’ll never get over it either. One year ago, and here I am typing it, be it in summary only. Time heals.
      We forgive (at least I do) but we do not forget. Thank God inheritance was not an issue.

    • Totally agree Judith. I’ve been there as well. Naively I thought death would bring out the best in families, a time to pull together and support each other. What a shock! We lost our parents years ago, and the nastiness and the bitterness exists to this day – and yes, it comes from those who wanted nothing to do with Mum and Dad when they could no longer do all the giving and needed us to do the caring. I am still disgusted.

  2. We have organised our funerals, wills and given our kids the power to handle our finances and health issues should we be unable to do so.

    1 REPLY
    • Yes Jan I lost my Husband suddenly in 2011 after 49 years of Marriage something we didn’t see coming but we had picked out songs etc,and followed what he had written down, since then I have paid for my Funeral in full same as my Husbands music etc is all done all the paperwork my boys need to have I have even started to write a Eulogy and if I think of something I add to it, a lot of people think I am mad but like you it takes all the hassles out of everything

  3. That is so true Judith Collie. Happens in most families. My mother showed me her true colors when my Dad died and crucified his parents. He was only 50.

  4. My daughter-in-law thought she knew it all when hubby died .Luckily for me son asked me.

  5. I do not intend to have a ‘normal’ funeral.. The cheapest box & be cremated.. No service at all, I don’t need anyone getting up and talking about me when I’m gone, what you say & do before I’m dead is much more important. Both my mum & my husband had this, works for me.

    2 REPLY
    • Me too. Funerals and caskets all too expensive. I have told mine knock me up a box cheap wood.. My mum said the same but family bought her a coffin and all the trimmings 5,000 pounds … It was not what she wanted.

  6. Got will in order. The most important thing is a Power of Attorney abd Enduring Guardianship. Most people just draw up a will but the POA and Enduring Guardianship docs r the most important in the event one becomes incapacitated. My partner’s aunt got trapped in a 3 year nightmare after her husband had a stroke. He couldn’t sign his name to the bank’s satisfaction so they wouldn’t release any funds to her. He died after 3 years.

  7. A SA government initiative is the Advanced Care Directive where you can stipulate your values & wishes. This includes health care &a living arrangements & I have a pre-paid funeral as well as a will & POA. I don’t want my children to have to make decisions as I have made them already.

  8. My husband and I both have our funerals sorted. My husband has ALS and doesn’t have long left and between us he is sorting out his end of life details.

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