Death is strange.
One moment someone is here and then the next moment life just continues as if they were never here to begin with.
As if they just existed in your memory.
It’s hard to wrap your mind around let alone know what to do when it happens.
Last week I lost my Aunt Nancy to kidney failure.
Two days later my father, her brother, died after suffering two massive strokes.
To be honest, I am not sure that my mind has even had a moment to wrap around the fact that two major players in my personal life are gone.
The first stroke my father had I was positive that he would make it through.
He is too stubborn not to.
His memory was questionable, and his speech was slurred, but I just knew in my heart that he would overcome.
…and then another massive stroke happened.
After a scan of his brain the difference was devastating.
It’s as if someone had turned off all the lights in the left portion and by all rights, that is what happened.
My flight was booked in an instant and I was on my way to him.
My mind was racing the entire time hoping and praying that I would make it in time to hold his hand and tell him that I love him.
Two planes later I was at his hospital bed side listening to him breathing.
The labored sound haunts me.
Equally so, the silence of the sudden loss does the same.
Before my sister and I knew it the donor line was calling us wanting to harvest his organs.
The funeral home was calling wanting to know when they could pick him up.
People were walking by his room, and I wanted to scream “HOW can you keep going on when my dad just died?!”
..But life does.
To them it was another moment.
To me, it was my childhood flashing before my eyes.
The laughter of family vacations.
The times that I told on my older sister because I was younger and knew I could get away with it.
My wedding day where he not only walked me down the aisle but officiated.
The pride he felt when I stepped into my professional life and found my passion for the CU movement.
Even the arguments and disagreements.
He made choices that were painful, distant, and hard to understand and suddenly none of it mattered.
Before I knew it my sister and I were standing in front of his home trying to figure out where to even begin.
He had just moved, and the home had construction happening inside.
Things were dusty, disturbed, and chaotic.
We had to dig through papers upon papers looking for any clues as to what he had, what we needed to do, who we needed to call.
As organized as he attempted to be, we still floundered.
It made me realize how often families are placed in this impossible position.
“What were his wishes?” – they would ask.
“To be here” – I would say to myself.
We called every card account.
We called every financial account.
We called his loans, his life insurance, his … everything.
Days of moving and tossing my father’s life away peppered with the torture of calling every single account that he had ever had something with.
There was no time to grieve.
There was only time to do what we had to do.
All had passwords that we knew nothing about.
“Sorry, you are now locked out. Please call a representative”.
“Your call is important to us, please hold for eternity”.
As with most situations I learned a few things that I would like to pass on.
- Make sure you have a password book or USB that you have the location to with someone you trust.
- Have a will. There are several online services that can help you draft one. It will make a huge difference to the folks left behind trying to handle your affairs.
- When speaking to someone who has just lost someone, please don’t read a script. Simply say, I am so sorry. That IS enough.
- Be gentle with the people handling the accounts of a deceased family member. Chances are they haven’t had the time to cry, let alone the time to even comprehend the enormous loss.
- Make sure you have Beneficiaries and PODs on your accounts. This will ensure that the people behind will have a way to use available funds towards your funeral.
- Get life insurance. It may feel like tossing money to the wind, but it isn’t for you. It is for the people left behind.
Nothing will bring my aunt nor my father back and I know at some point it will all hit me like a box of rocks thrown at me out of nowhere.
The human mind is amazing.
Something traumatic happens and we nearly turn into a robot doing what we must do to see it through.
The human mind is also fragile.
Allowing yourself the freedom to grieve and be okay with the coaster of emotions is extremely important.
Credit unions have an opportunity to exercise empathy to the absolute core during these scenarios.
Whether the person that passed was a member or the person who is left is a member.
These moments matter and ultimately enhance loyalty.
“In good times and bad”
That’s what the Little Man (Umbrella Man) said, right?
It’s still valid and still important that we hold that umbrella tightly above the heads of our members as they navigate the ups and downs of their lives.
When I got back home and started to go through the endless pile of my own mail, I recognized my credit union’s address on what looked like a card.
It was a sympathy card signed by the folks that I deal with the most from my credit union.
That said so much to me and I will never forget it.
Please don’t forget it at YOUR credit union.
Has always centered around our ability to SEE people for who they are and help them navigate through life’s ups and downs.
Are you doing it?