Death is a Sure Thing: Are You Prepared?


By Iku Kiriyama

“Death and Taxes” are said to be the only sure things in life.  I wasn’t worried about taxes, but my paranoid side led me to tell my husband, George, in 2000 that we didn’t have any papers in order. We were about to fly to Kalamazoo, Michigan to visit our son who was working for a CBS affiliate as a reporter. The thought of flying and dying together unprepared scared me.

Our son and daughter, George and Traci, didn’t know anything about what we had – much less where anything was. And I wasn’t sure what and where of anything of my husband. We spent a couple of days getting things together and I typed up the information with directions into my computer. We’re prepared now, I thought.

My husband died on August 16, 2005. After the funeral and burial, I began the task of getting the paperwork to notify all the agencies of his death.  I started becoming a “widow” – or, as my CPA, told me, “You’re now a single person.” The emotional and intellectual mindset of being a couple for 36 years and then suddenly checking the boxes that identify you as “alone” is in itself a numbing, depressing experience.

I soon discovered that all was not right with my document file. I discovered that even though I was worried about the two of us dying in a fiery plane crash, the reality then was that we were both alive. Somehow the mind is still assuming that he will be here to answer questions. “Where is that paper you mentioned?” “Do you have the certificates up-to-date?” “Do you…. Have you….?”

I thought that my document box was like a solid block of cheddar cheese. But it was like Swiss cheese – full of holes.  And I discovered that what I would have thought was “common sense” doesn’t exist. Common sense is based on experience so that the NEXT time you get it right. Well, your husband (or your wife) won’t come back to life to give you that second chance to get it right.  It’s devastating enough that you’re trying to deal with your grief and sadness. You can save each other the frustrations of paperwork and red tape by being adequately prepared.

The forum deals with building a document box – what husbands and wives need to do for each other’s sake and their adult children.  Adult children are encouraged to attend as their involvement is necessary – as well as ensuring their own families are also prepared.

To attend Iku’s Workshop at the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center on Saturday, September 19, 2009 at 1pm, please RSVP to (626) 960-2566 or [email protected]


Leave A Reply