Wow! Who knew that after my mom died would be a day filled with paperwork and phone calls and other administrative tasks. If it wasn’t a sad day all around, it would have been just like work. The paperwork of post-mortem is real work, folks.
But I guess death is like work. We are all here working on ourselves, and this is part of the process.
The first emotion after hearing my mom had passed away was disbelief. I was stunned. That is strange, of course, given that we knew she was terminal and had been in hospice for 3 months. Nonetheless, somewhere in our subconscious we hold onto the disbelief that death will happen. When nurse told me on the phone, just an hour after I had left my mom, that she passed away, I said, “Well, I didn’t expect that.”
Which, of course, was my by inner-self talking. Of course I expected it, rationally. But in that moment, you are stunned.
There was a period for us to see my mom and say goodbye, though we had been doing that for months now. And then I turned into Kathleen Leslie, Administrator Extraordinare (if only I could be emblazoned with superhero symbol and cape).
Yesterday was like an advertisement for GTD (what is GTD, you ask? Ah, novices, it means Get Things Done). GTD is what I do for a living and it is also how I can cleverly avoid dealing with feelings.
1. Contact family members (it was late at night so this took into the next day). I dislike the phone generally but, really, this must be done via phone or in person. Don’t even THINK of doing it otherwise. My apologies to my cousin Bryan, who found out on Facebook. Ugh.
2. Call the funeral home (one in Maryland, one in Virginia).
3. Turn over vital statistics (my big snafu–couldn’t remember the city of birth for my mom, but my partner in GTD crime, my Aunt Suzanne, had that at the ready). Turns out getting this right is important. Having to redo a death certificate sounds like a red-tape process akin to how a bill becomes a law circa fall 2013.
4. Call her former employers (you have to stop the pension checks and you have to start the process for any death benefit). They were really nice. They staff the “report a death” phone line with nice people. They are grandmothers, I think. Who bake cookies.
5. Call Social Security, get ticked off and hang up on them (true event). Not so nice; they hire former 6th grade bullies to staff their “report a death” line. That brings out the sarcastic attorney in me, so this relationship didn’t end well.
6. Contact my mom’s friends who are planning her funeral (she has nice, subversive Catholic/Christian friends who will help making it a “Donna-Like” celebration).
7. Turn over my mom’s selected outfit, makeup and footwear (really??) to the funeral home. Yep, they want footwear. My mom had slippers she loved, which don’t go with the outfit, but it doesn’t matter, of course.
8. Turn over a picture of my mom with a hair style she would like. I laughed out loud at this request. She HATED to have her picture taken, so I had to scrounge. I joked with her before that she better give me guidance or I’d use her high school graduation picture where she sports the Laura Petrie-Mary Tyler Moore flip-up do.
9. Make sure I give them the picture of my stepfather that she wants with her. Sweet.
10. Move money around to get ready for the bills. Because. They. Are. Coming. For. You.
11. Play candy crush. For 2 hours.
The details of death do have a place, to ease you into a new reality, a new normal where you don’t have daily contact with your loved one. The funny thing is that I did not have regular contact with my mom until the last year and a half. For the past year, I saw her practically daily. So it is very much a change, but one that the details of death help ease you into, slowly.
But you have to laugh, that exhaustion-enduced giggle that we have all experienced, when the absurd requests and events hit you. It’s therapeutic. And your departed loved one would WANT you to giggle.
Remember that when you think you have to walk around with a sad face in the wake of death.