Create An Unusual File Folder Your Family Will Love

By Chloe JonPaul

A couple of years ago I never would have thought of doing this, but now I\’m certain that it will be one of the best gifts I can leave to my family.

With Boomers living a longer, more productive life, one might be tempted to think that such a plan isn\’t necessary but we need to remember that tomorrow isn\’t promised to any of us. With that thought in mind, I\’ll describe the special folder that now rests in the hanging file at my telephone center.

I labeled it The Big Event. It contains everything my family needs to know if/when something should happen to me. For years, I kept such information under lock and key but it occurred to me that they might not remember where the key was kept. I envisioned them exclaiming, “Where did she put this or that? What would she want us to do? Whom should we call?”

Here is what the folder contains:

1. A letter of instruction listing telephone numbers for the bank, Social Security, my retirement office, financial advisor, doctor/dentist, church, telephone and Internet service, insurance company, utilities, Medicare, and secondary medical insurance. I also listed the 4 last digits of my bank account numbers for reference.
2. Copies of my advance directives and power of attorney. I am pre-paid for cremation services and the contact number is listed.
3. An index card on which I\’ve written what has been stored in bins located in the garage, tool shed, etc.
4. Photocopies of documents they might need
5. The funeral liturgy for my memorial service which includes a letter I\’ve written as my final message, which I would like to have read instead of someone giving a eulogy.

What I consider the best item of all is the DVD I had made professionally that tells the story of my life. I went through old family albums that no one looks at anymore and gathered up photos that show me from the time I was an infant to the present. I arranged the photos in groups with specific captions, selected background music, and included a taped recording of my final message to my loved ones. No requests, no advice, but something I hope they\’ll remember long after I\’m gone. It\’s called “An Interview with God”. I used it as my performance as Ms. Maryland Senior America in 2003.

Here is part of the letter I wrote, which is to be read at my memorial service:

Ecclesiastes tells us that \’there is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.\’

And so it is that my time on this earth has ended. How fleeting it was! At 20, one cannot begin to comprehend mortality. At 30, one is so enmeshed in the time-consuming efforts of establishing a family and career. At 40, there begins a slight murmuring within. Still, everyone celebrates your “over-the-hill” birthday and puts to rest whatever fears you have. After all, they say, the best is yet to come. At 50, one realizes that she has spent half a century on this planet.

Now a certain dissatisfaction creeps in. After all, what have you really done with your life one asks with the impatience of those souls who crave immortality.

After a while everything subsides, replaced by a certain wisdom that says Hey! It\’s okay to be ordinary. Just try to live each day to the max. Most of us try to live our lives according to the Ten Commandments, tempered by Murphy\’s Law.

The author/philosopher Robert Fulgum, bless his heart, has offered us something in-between those two and I share them with you now:

  • Buy lemonade from any kid who is selling.
  • Any time you can vote on anything, vote.
  • Attend the reunion of your high school class.
  • Choose having time over money.
  • Always take the scenic route.
  • Give at least something to any beggar who asks.
  • Give away money to all street musicians.
  • Always be someone\’s Valentine.
  • When the circus comes to town, be there.

Then there is a passage from Kahlil Gibran\’s masterpiece “The Prophet” and this is a beautiful line: “And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”

So, go ahead! Start planning your Big Event and discover the peace and satisfaction you will experience in knowing that you have given your loved ones a precious gift.

Author\’s note: There are many end-of-life planning guides out there and I have checked them out but I find that having a handy file with the most important information readily available is the best way to go.

Chloe Jon Paul, M.Ed., is a retired educator and writer of several published articles and a previous book entitled “What Happens Next: A Family Guide to Nursing Home Visits” and More… Her many achievements since the age of 55 include winning the title of Ms. Maryland Senior America in 2003, being a Recipient of the Fulbright Fellowship Seminars Abroad award to South Africa in 1996, and being a World traveler – to all 7 continents. Visit her website at http://chloejonpaul.com/