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Taking Care of End-of-Life Matters

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Taking Care of End-of-Life Matters
Credit: NEA
When my mother became quite ill many years ago in Malaysia, we, the children, decided that we should purchase burial plots for both parents. We made this decision without informing my father, but when he found out about this after my mother’s funeral, he was very angry with what we did, saying that those alive should not monopolise the land of the dead (a Cantonese saying).
That being the case, we were honestly quite relieved to have done that because when my father passed away years later, we were able to put him to rest next to my mother, on a hillside overlooking some fishing ponds, near their good friends without breaking the bank. Burial plots in cemeteries with good feng shui do not come cheap, even in Malaysia, especially when you are buying one at the last minute.
Recently, my brother told me that he bought himself a niche in a newly launched columbarium because he did not want to burden his teenage sons if anything happened to him. This triggered a family discussion about where we should be buried.
Death is a certainty and as seniors, we are, as my grandmother would say, definitely closer to that end.
Our flurry of activities related to the purchase of the niches, a total of five, in one fell swoop, led me to reflect on what else we need to do to prepare for the end.
We are probably aware of the need to prepare a will and lasting power of attorney, in the event of any incapacitation. We may also have been told about the possible need to move into nursing homes or hospices and the value of the do-not-resuscitate orders.
But perhaps, we have not yet thought about where we’d like to be put after death. Yes, the truth is we have little choice. We have to be cremated and even if we opt for burial, we will eventually have to surrender that place.
But with recent changes, we now have the option of our remains being interred in an urn and located in a columbarium or have the ashes scattered in the sea or in a garden.
But while such options are available, should we be the ones making these final decisions? Or should we consider our children’s wishes? Would they have the need for a physical place to connect with us such that a sea burial or scattering of ashes in a garden won’t do?
I have not discussed this with my son or my husband. I have told my husband not to leave me in a dark gloomy place after my death! Let me have sunshine and warmth!
But what struck me is that more of my senior friends have taken it upon themselves to organise their own departure, from booking and paying for their niches to putting money aside for the wake and funeral services.
This was not the case for my parents or their parents. But it seems that folks from my generation prefer to take care of these things themselves when they can.
How about you? Have you organised your future passing on matters? Or are you leaving it to your children? Have you had that chat with them about your preferences? Or do you prefer to let things be, as some seniors would say, because we will have no eyes to see then!
Whatever the case, there is no escaping our departure so perhaps making comprehensive plans for that day can help to lessen the pain and confusion for the dear ones left behind. Do share your thoughts about this topic.

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Cheah Yin Mee

A retired teacher who can’t stop teaching. Her daily activities include writing, yoga, art and gardening.

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