LOS ANGELES—Lots of people cherish their ultimate to-do lists, those interesting collections of activities to try and places to see before we kick the bucket. They are usually filled with adventures like jumping out of airplanes or getting in touch with long-lost friends, but not always. For example, my mom wants to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person, while Dad is determined to stay awake for the 6 o’clock news and shake hands with the inventor of Sans-a-belt. My husband just wants to find something in the pantry without my help.
I don’t really have a bucket list. I’d probably just want to hug my family for a long time and maybe, finally, watch all the “30 Rock” episodes waiting in my DVR. I’m not sure why I’m thinking about death more than usual these days. Perhaps it’s a reaction to dying relatives. I have this annoying habit of trying to learn from every experience, all while organizing underwear drawers and throwing away anything in the fridge that expired five minutes ago.
With so many funerals taking place in the lives of friends and loved ones, I believe more people should think about their own bucket lists and add at least four essential items. These can be easily accomplished from your living room without missing a single episode of “CSI.” Get out a pen and paper and prepare a(n):
1. Last will and testament. This isn’t just for the Rockefellers anymore. Sure, I called dibs on old pictures and home movies years ago, but what if my sister decides crystal, china, and poor circulation aren’t enough of an endowment? Do we really want Mom’s precious items divided in a courtroom where my brother will likely lecture and roll his eyes? Of course we don’t. And get it notarized.
2. Eulogy. Your loved ones will be so filled with grief, or relief, that they can’t possibly remember all the good stories on their own. Think about what you want everyone to hear and put your own spin on why you dropped out of high school five weeks before graduation. Take this opportunity to tell everyone what you think about them, and rest easy knowing you’ll never hear their response.
3. Obituary. Make it unique and funny, different from every other remembrance in the paper. Mine is already good to go. I’m hoping this is the one time I get to print without being edited, either by a professional or my mother.
4. Living will and final arrangements. Do you want extraordinary measures taken to save your life? Do you prefer cremation over burial? Don’t make your kids argue over who gets to pull the plug.
Husband wondered if maybe I should go one step further and record everything myself just to get the timing right. That’s not such a bad idea.
Call me controlling, but these documented decisions can make the grieving process easier for those left behind. And when you’re done, there’s still plenty of time to call that long-lost friend.