In preparation for a day certain to come a calling


Tom Kirvan
Legal News, Editor-in-Chief

After a couple of “health episodes” over the past year, I was asked point-blank by my oldest sister if I had “my affairs in order” and, correspondingly, whether I had pre-paid for my funeral.

She, as the most organized person I know, has done both, thereby taking much of the guesswork and related expense out of the end-of-life equation.

Her motivation may have been spurred by a document both of us received in separate mailings nearly 25 years ago from our parents, who at the time were in their late 70s and in relatively good health, aside from being a few steps slower and decidedly more aware of the vagaries of time.

It began with the heading “TO EVERYONE WHO MAY BE CONCERNED,” which was their way of setting the stage for their “good intentions” to come.

“It is the unequivocal wish of Annalee and Stuart Kirvan, singly and together, that in the event of catastrophic injury and/or illness that neither of us be kept alive by tubes, wires, needles, Cuisinarts, Dustbusters, or any other mechanical or medical means.

“Simply put, if our brains are dead and our organs have lost their functions, let us slide away in peaceful exit. We have no desire to suffer all the ‘keep ‘em alive’ procedures that have been developed, nor do we wish to inflict hardship, heartbreak, and poverty on our children, grandchildren, or anyone else who gives a hoot.

“This action is taken without legal assistance as we see no need to pay a lawyer to transcribe our wishes in legalese that could be questioned in court for ‘lack of clarity.’

“To make this point in the simplest possible terms, there’s an old song titled, ‘Please Release Me, Let Me Go.’ That’s exactly what we mean. Don’t fiddle with our faculties. Don’t violate our vitals.”

There, in little more than half a page, were their last legal wishes, something that we used as a guide during their final stages a decade or so ago. Over the course of their last three years, they, respectively, waged difficult battles with lung disease and Alzheimer’s, two steely-eyed killers that made misery and heartbreak their constant companions. In other words, it was not quite the swan song they had envisioned.

And yet, my parents were well-prepared for that final chapter, perhaps even viewing it as one of the few “sure things in life.”

That outlook is one we can all live with even in this time of political polarization, keeping in mind the immortal words of humorist Sam Levenson – “If you die in an elevator, be sure to push the ‘UP’ button.”

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