Getting Your Affairs In Order is Harder Than it Sounds

A number of cliches kick into gear when your doctor says you have 8-12 months left to live.  One of those is ‘Get your affairs in order’.

Some aspects of that are pure logistics. Where do I want to be when I die?  My choice is hospice.  I like the idea of staying at home as long as I can but when it gets intensely medical and unpleasant, I’d prefer not to have that happen in our home.  

Dying elsewhere also avoids the “Glad you could come home for Christmas…you are staying in the bedroom where dad kicked the bucket. Sleep well” scenario.

Others are the practical things around the house. Where are those furnace filters?  How do you change the lightbulbs in the 15 foot ceiling?  What’s a circuit breaker?

And there’s the question of re-connecting with friends whom you haven’t been in contact with lately. That’s a tough one. It seems inconsiderate to leave the party and not say goodbye but it’s a hard topic to ease into: “It’s been awhile. Hope you are well.  Just wanted to let you know that I’m dying soon.”  Still working on that one,

I have been surprised by the sheer number of items on the list.  Carol and I have a great partnership and have used the ‘divide and conquer’ strategy: I paid the monthly bills; she was on a first name basis with the kids’ teachers.

If you have a spouse or partner, take a minute and think about all little details you know but they don’t:

  • What’s the best grocery store for fresh vegetables?
  • Where is that password for the wifi network?
  • Do we rotate our tires?
  • What documents do we save for our taxes?
  • Just how many kids are sharing our Netflix account?
  • Who is the dog’s Vet?

My point is that I’m glad I got the warning shot because it made me realize how much information I needed to pass along. So I made Carol a ‘When I Die’ binder.

It may not be the most romantic gift I’ve ever given but it could be the most useful.


  1. Dear Chris,

    Our mutual friend Linda Haigh shared your blog with me. I had the great honor of meeting your wonderful wife last year when she came to LA.

    Your words made me laugh and cry. I am a member of the club. I joined 18 years ago this coming Sunday with stage 3 uterine cancer (2 surgeries, 6 rounds of chemo).

    My prayer was always to face everything with as much grace & dignity as was humanly possible and, if it was my fate, to die a conscious death. You embody my prayer with your example.

    Your kindness, your decency & your goodness shine from your eyes and in your words. I am so sorry I never got to meet you. I pray that your transition is a gentle one. If I can be of service to you now or later to your family, all anyone need do is ask.

    Blessings & respect,
    Regina (Leeds)

  2. Thank you so much Regina for those kind words. Congratulations on the upcoming anniversary of your fight against cancer (more of those are always good!) and I wish you the best of luck as your journey continues.
    Kindest Regards,

  3. Chris, I just heard about your story from Dick Braddock. He directed me here. I learned a lot by reading your thoughts on death. I really believe this will help me if I ever face what you are going through. I thank you for that. I wish you well for the time you have left, and I'm glad I got to know you, even though it was only for a brief time. I will remember you fondly, and pray for those you leave behind. I pray you will rest in peace my friend.

    1. Thank you. I hope some people find the perspective helpful and it helped me to collect my thoughts as well. I appreciate your good wishes.


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