“Tonight, I am DEFINITELY going to write my will. And you should too.”
No, these weren’t spoken to me by someone who died shortly thereafter, or are indicative of any swamp witch premonitions and predictions. These were the words I typed out to my boyfriend – which may be considered a bit morbid, come to think of it. Over the last few months, I’ve been low-key planning on writing my will.
Hear me out. I know it may be tempting to skim these words, and to write off this topic as the product of a whacky, dark mind, and is something you just don’t have the time for. And given the topic, I don’t blame that first impression. Because who’s thinking about death, funerals, and wills, before the age of 30, 40, or even 50? Me. But apparently a lot of other millennials and young people are too. In 2017, the National Funeral Directors Association found “62.5 percent of consumers felt it was very important to communicate their funeral plans and wishes to family members prior to their own death, yet only 21.4 percent had done so.”
So yes. I’m not even 30, and I’m already seriously contemplating the contents of my will. I’ve had a lifelong preoccupation with death and dying. Why would a happy person with no serious illness and little exposure to death think on it with consistency?
Obviously (or maybe not?), Halloween, ghost stories, and all around atmospheric spookiness are all captivating and have certainly fostered within me an interest in death. As many do, I view death as a deeply spiritual topic. The myriad of cultural practices and myths surrounding death has led me to the contemplation of my own demise, and questioned what I believe and what I want to happen to me and my body upon death. But it goes beyond this, just as it does for many people. Death is the ultimate mystery; it is obscenely commonplace and rooted in reality and yet is a mysticism, of which we may or may not ever understand. As Susan Cheever says, “death is terrifying because it is so ordinary. It happens all the time.” It is the unionizer of everything. If living isn’t enough to create a sense of unity between all beings, then certainly decay and death is. The recognition of death within life is universal; the mystery and truth of death is what makes death so darn appealing. My thoughts and feelings surrounding death are not unique by any means. In fact, they are almost ridiculously human, as death is the backdrop for literally everyone. And it’s why I’m finally getting around to writing my will.
But the fascination with death may also be generational. Not only are younger Americans thinking about pre-planning their own funerals, but they are slowly changing the conversation around death. Our deaths are a certainty, one of the few things we can count on in an uncertain world of climate change, and dangerous modern politics. Apps concerning death and dying are popping up (like WeCroak), and it is now super easy to actually generate your own will, with websites like Trust & Will, Do Your Own Will and FreeWill.
In the occurrence of your death, whenever that could be, you should prepare for what could happen to your: child, dog, cat (and other non-human babies). Savings. Car. Real estate. Books and clothes. And anything else – like maybe that weird snake skin collection you have in a wooden chest underneath your bed or your collection of vibrators in the top drawer of your bedside table. And given that a lot of our life and time is spent online, thinking about how your social media accounts will exist – or not exist – upon your death is something else to think about.
This is when you must take the time to think about what happens to your body after death. Would you donate it to science? Have the classic coffin and burial? Or what about cremation or immuration (think mausoleum). Even disposal at sea or by mushroom – via the Mushroom Death Suit, (which is basically exactly as it sounds – a suit with mushrooms in the netting of the fibers, which spreads and very quickly grows on and in your dead body.)
As I began writing this piece, I hadn’t taken the time to write out my will. Now, I’m happy to say that I’m also working on my will. And it isn’t just as clean and simple as designation who gets what. It’s an introspective and intimate process. It’s become transparently clear to who in my life is truly important. Deciding who I can trust with my possessions and burial wishes when I myself no longer have an actual physical voice or presence is startlingly real. Is it family? Partner? Closest friends? It begs into question just how involved or what type of ceremony (if any) I wish to have as a memorial service. And how I hope people will remember and celebrate my life. Writing your (intended) final will and testament isn’t as dry and bureaucratic as it may sound. Death is personal, and worth taking the time to plan for.