does your family know about your friends?q

talley_sue_nycApril 27, 2005

here's why I ask:

My oldest friend in NYC--my "New York mom"--died recently. She'd been in the hospital with heart problems, eventually on a mechanical heart and awaiting a transplant, for several months.

I didn't know she was ill until 2 weeks before she died, and I heard not from my "siblings" but from a mutual friend, who herself only found out because she happened to call our friend's apartment when the sister was visiting, and she answered the phone.

Then, the mutual friend wasn't notified by the family about Nancy's death or her funeral; fortunately, I called and told her.

It got me to thinking--would my siblings, husband, children know whom to call? Which folks from my professional life would probably most want to know? Would they know how to find them?

I think it would be hard enough to get through the ordeal yourself without having to notify all the folks in your mom's address book, esp. when doing so might mean you have to admit to yourself your mom could die.

But keeping our address books in good shape would be a good idea.

And for us parents, it's a good idea to teach our kids about the importance of those sorts of notifications. Now that I'm more truly a grownup (it's not complete yet, by any means), I'm realizing "how things work"--the networks we form, etc. And the obligations connected to that.

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I'm sorry to hear about your friend, Tally Sue. I think about this stuff a lot. By age 12, I had a letter in the top drawer of my desk to be opened in the event of my death.:)

Many years ago, when I was in college, I realized that I had a whole network of friends that my family knew little about. I thought about what would happen if I died - would anyone tell my friends?

As a response, I sent my mother an "in case I die" letter, listing all my closest friends, with addresses and phone numbers. Unfortunately, I neglected to tell her *why* I was doing this, and she had quite a fright before I was able to assure her that no, I was not ill or suicidal.

Since then, I've always kept my address book up to date. My best friends have the addresses and phone number for my family members, and vice versa. My sister knows which people to call if something happens to me - just three friends, but between them, they'd get the ball rolling.

Two months ago, I nearly died from adrenal insufficiency. I spent a week in the ICU, unconscious, before the doctors were able to diagnose and treat me. Only by the grace of God am I still here.

Although it was a very difficult, frightening time, one thing I took pleasure in was that all my friends and family knew and were there to support me and my sister.

I do think that e-mail makes these sorts of connections much easier. My sister was able to e-mail my contact people, along with other friends of mine that she knows, and those people were able to e-mail other people. People who weren't on the original list she sent out wrote her and asked to be included in further updates.

This is the same thing that happened recently when a good friend of mine died after a long struggle with cancer. I think it's a much better system than phone calls. You can get to many people in one fell swoop, and you can do it during a sleepless night or when you're too exhausted to talk to anyone.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 12:31AM
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Phone calls take a longer time, too--and the mail is not instantaneous.

Keeping a single address book up-to-date would be a good idea. And, as often happens, keeping *everyday* things up-to-date will help in an *emergency* because they'll be ready to go.

My DH planned a surprise bday party for me on my 40th--he rounded up all sorts of people. It would have made his life easier if he could have snitched my address book and photocopied it while I wasn't looking.

So it's not always the bad things that we need to be prepared for.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 11:32AM
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Talley_Sue, I am sorry to hear about your "New York mom."

My address book is on my Palm handheld and, though there is always a recent backup on my computer, I'm not sure anyone would know where to look for it; nor would they be able to differentiate the names of co-workers from those of vendors, etc. In addition, there were some "cybertasks" that I thought fell into the same "who should know" category: notifying some emailing lists and discussion forums (like THS) of my illness or death.

So when I had surgery last year, I created a two-page list of the important stuff: names of friends to call (along with how I knew them and whether to ask them to spread the news to others), names of contacts on email lists and at least directions on how to unsubscribe, and information on where to find things like insurance policies and keys to safe-deposit boxes, who to call at work about medical or insurance benefits, and so on. I printed it, put it in an envelope, and gave it to the friend who brought me to the hospital, with instructions to return it to me once I got out of the recovery room.

I update that document periodically, and keep it on the Desktop of my computer in plain text with an appropriate title so that someone can find it. My "next of kin" (blood relatives or not) have been told where to look for this document. It's not as immediately up-to-date as an address book, but I'm comfortable that it will provide appropriate information to those who most likely will need it.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 8:09PM
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All good ideas. This thread reminds me of when an elderly neighbor friend who I had developed a very nice friendship with became ill and moved. I tried to keep up with her movements but didn't very well because of the chaos in my own life (not grown up yet, I guess). Her son stopped by months after I had seen her last and I asked how she was. I was told only then that she had died. He said he assumed that someone else had told me. I didn't even know this "someone else". It still hurts when I think about it. Not having been able to at least go to her funeral makes it harder.

Yes, among all the other things we need to do to become organized (and become adults), do please keep your contact list up to date. Thanks Talley Sue for the reminder. I plan to raise the priority list on this task for myself.


    Bookmark   April 29, 2005 at 9:19AM
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being a slight drama queen I have precise instructions for everything to be done if I die before my husband, he will never be organized enough to get it all right and I want to keep things flowly smoothly even from the grave.

SO the music is chosen and who will be pallbearers and who to call and what girlfriends get what jewelry and who should come over to clear out my things etc.

Wow I am beginning to wonder if I am a tad obsessive. no comment please.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2005 at 4:15PM
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Interesting question. I've thought about it from time to time, but mostly concerning online friends. I live in a small community, and my local friends would find out very quickly. But I can think of a number of people who wouldn't even notice something might be wrong until they didn't hear from me at Christmas.

I'm sure my daughter would go into my email program and Rolodex to notify people. But just to make things easier for her, I ought to make a list--maybe in the form of a "tree" so some could call others and she wouldn't have to get in touch with everyone.

Thanks for the prod, Talley Sue.


    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 7:40AM
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OH MY GOSH! I've never thought about this before! I should probably have a list, too.

My address book is quite old (also circa 1978--same year I got that old swimsuit I just tossed). Sad to say we would have to play "dead or alive?" looking through the names, since I have a hard time crossing off dead people. Silly, but how can I cross out my grandparents?

And my sister has moved so many times her current phone number is scribbled on the divider rather than on the page with her name.

My email address book isn't much better. I think it automatically added every address from anyone who has ever sent me an email.

This will be a project for next week's lunch time.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2005 at 7:36PM
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Back when the email system was new, my dear friend was online to folks she met through AOL. When she died unexpectedly, I was so sad to think of those folks who would always wonder "what happened". My friend's adult children had NO idea that their mother had this private this didn't seem a possible avenue. It did, however, remind me and my still living friends to let our children KNOW who is pivotal in our lives.


    Bookmark   October 15, 2005 at 8:15PM
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Probably time for me to update my address book. I've crossed out and rewritten so many addresses and phone numbers, but I admit it's kind of fun to look through and see how many times we've moved.

I do clean out my email address book every couple of weeks since it is set up to add anyone I respond to. Lots of eBay addresses end up there. No point in them getting a mass mailing.

I'm not sure my DH would know who to notify since he tends to be oblivious about those kind of things. I tend to meet friends away from the house. We all have small kids and like to get away from the noise, so even though he has met them numerous times he might not think to contact them. I'll have to ask him if he would know.


    Bookmark   October 16, 2005 at 2:01AM
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Gloria brings up another good point... my husband is also oblivious. Would he even think to call the church??? And he can never remember anybody's name, and I get phone messages like, "Whats-her-name called; you know, the one with short hair and glasses." Then we play 20 questions and I finally figure out who it might have been.

Another thought: I should label WHO the people are in the address book, so DH could call my friends but not last season's hockey coach. And my dentist. He has NO CLUE who my dentist is. If something dreadful happened, would the police think to tell him to call my office and get the number for the dental insurance company, so he could call THEM to find my dental records???

I'm starting to panic. And I watch too many CSI shows, LOL.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2005 at 2:36PM
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I have a hard time crossing off dead people. Silly, but how can I cross out my grandparents?

This is why I do a new address book--then I don't cross people out; I just don't write them in again. Small symbolism.

If the cops needed your dental records, they'd find a way to get them.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2005 at 12:37PM
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An excellent thread and post -- I would have no idea who many of the folks listed in my mum's phone book. She still has a computer-like memory for people (including spouses, children etc.) Sheesh! Why couldn't my brain be wired like that????

Anyway -- when we travel now -- I leave full instructions for the folks looking after the cats and the house INCLUDING lots of emergency phone numbers -- with explanations of who they are!

I will now start re-doing my phone books - and listing that information in there too!

Also I'm going to start a simple list on the computer (to keep near my house instructions list) -- and add a copy of each to my will too.

Thanks for all of the great ideas!!!

    Bookmark   October 20, 2005 at 11:12AM
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a not about trying to communicate via your will:

Often the will is not opened until well into the funeral process--so if you're trying to tell your family the names of people who would like to come to your funeral, that's not a guaranteed efficient way.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2005 at 1:08PM
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one of my wishes with this post is to get the information around while people are still sick, BEFORE they die.

So a will won't help much with that, either.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2005 at 1:09PM
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Talley Sue,

Good point on the symbolism of starting a new book instead of crossing out dead people... I suppose I never thought of that since I don't mind having a messy address book so never saw a need to start fresh.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2005 at 5:24AM
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I never thought about it. Good Thread!

    Bookmark   October 22, 2005 at 9:00PM
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Wonderful thread TS. I've also had a similar experience to yours with two close friends recently.

Dayenu - I don't think you are obsessive at all but simply very thorough and kind. I think one of the most difficult things in life has to be making decisions regarding others last wishes. To remove that stress from others, at an already majorally upsetting time, is an act of extreme kindness.

My paternal grandmother (a highly organized person) had a letter with instructions which (we believe) she put out every night before she went to bed. If she woke in the AM, she put it back in a drawer. One night she did not awake and this letter provided comfort and clarity as to her wishes.

I've just (finally) done my will. I'm sending a copy to the executor I KNOW will follow it to the letter. I'm now going to attach to that all sorts of other 'good info' as a result of this thread.

Thanks so much for bringing 'front + centre'.


    Bookmark   October 27, 2005 at 3:05PM
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NEW PLAN: Didn't get to the address book yet, but I bought Christmas cards and I'm going to re-do it as I do the cards. There are enough empty pages in the back that I should pretty much make it through the alphabet.

And I'm brave enough to admit I will probably staple the old pages together and throw them in a desk drawer in case I ever wonder what street grandma used to live on.

Wow, Holly, your grandmother was definitely organized. I have often thought of writing my own obituary since my husband pays no attention to what I do once I walk out the door.

P.S. Sometimes I have this tiny mean streak. One day as I was leaving the house, my husband asked where my meeting was that day. This is the same meeting I have attended on the 2nd Saturday of the month for 3 or 4 years, and he can never even remember the name of the organization. I knew he had NO CLUE, so I just said "same place as always" to see if he would admit he didn't even know what city I was driving to. He just said "Oh".

    Bookmark   October 28, 2005 at 7:32PM
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