at a book

Where I’ve Been…

It has been a rough 4 months for my family and I.  My mother had a mini stroke in December of 2016, and then she passed away after a massive stroke on April 5.  In between, I was working on and then publishing my first cozy mystery.  I was compelled to keep moving forward, even though I was being overwhelmed by the problems that surface when you are caring for an elderly parent.

Each time I made a trip to a hospital or doctor’s office to accompany my mother, I would bring all of my writing tools.  I had my iPhone in my purse to use for dictation, my HP mini to jot down ideas and outlines, and if I forgot these things, I would go to the nearest pharmacy and buy a pen and notebook.  It was crazy, and in retrospect, pointless.

Caring for someone who is terminally ill is exhausting, even if you won’t admit it to yourself.  Thanks in part to my Fitbit tracking online, I discovered I was only sleeping about 3 hours per day, and my blood pressure had soared.  Logging 3 hours of drive time per day to get to a stroke unit at a hospital in another state, along with caring for my children and farm had compromised my own health.

The trouble hasn’t ended there.  A poorly written Will from 32 years ago has caused an incredible amount of stress, as well as finding out my mother hadn’t paid any of her bills in four months, has sent my husband and me on an unwelcome rollercoaster ride.  We’re now wading through endless months of probate and dealing with relatives I haven’t heard from in over 20 years.  Such is life after death.

Where I’m Going…

I realized that I had 2 choices to make after my mother passed away – either lie down and give up because the stress is overwhelming, or I could decide to get back to writing to forget about my problems.

I’ve decided to get back to writing.

I have two novels that are almost completed (within 4 chapters), and a new cozy mystery that I’m outlining.  I’m excited to get back to enjoying the simple things, like a cup of coffee in the morning, reading my email, and then working on a chapter or two.

I’ve also decided to write a new Will.

I’m sure many people who are reading this are thinking, so what is the big deal about a Will?  When I die, my stuff will go to my relatives.  Not a problem.  I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. Dead wrong.

You HAVE TO write a will to make sure that your assets and book royalties/copyrights and website/domain ownership (yep, this is for indie authors too), go to the person or organization that you designate.  My parents wrote a will 32 years ago that included their parents.  Their parents died over 17 years ago.  Unfortunately, this meant that THEIR descendants were then entitled to property and money from my mother’s estate, not just my brother and I.  In my case, this includes two uncles, an aunt, and all of their tribe.  My lawyer told me that intent doesn’t matter; the written word does.  Lesson learned.

I hope that none of you reading this has the misfortune to go through what I recently did.  A lengthy illness of a loved one, followed by a legal nightmare isn’t something I would wish on my worst enemy.

I want to tell you, from my own experience, to do the following things after you read this post:

  1. Tell your family that you love them. You never know when something terrible may happen, and you may not get another chance to tell them how you feel.
  2. If you have elderly parents, talk with them about their estate, and persuade them if necessary to write a new Will. Have them write a Power of Attorney as well when they are writing their Will, naming someone to be in charge of their accounts and property in the event of their death.
  3. Have a DNR request in writing (Do Not Resuscitate).  This form states whether or not they wish to be resuscitated.  When someone can’t speak for themselves and you’re the next living relative, the hospital is going to go to you for a decision about their care.   If it is in writing, you won’t have to make a difficult decision later.  If you’re writing a DNR, do a Medical Power of Attorney as well – this gives someone else the power to make medical decisions for them in the event they are incapacitated – such as therapy and nursing home selection.
  4. Discuss and include, if necessary, the disposition of pets in a Will.  Who is going to care for Fluffy and Rover when you’re ill or dead?  Will the pets be turned over to an animal rescue or Humane Society, or will someone else take them in and care for them?  Money should be left in the Will for the care and feeding of any animals to anyone willing to take the animals in.
  5. Write your own Will. You can’t get out of this world alive, so accept the fact that someday someone is going to have to deal with your estate.  This is your chance to decide what will happen with your money and property, including your book rights.
  6. When you’re caring for someone ill, put everything else that isn’t important on hold, and accept help when it is offered. I tried to juggle a lot of responsibility because I thought I could handle it all.  I couldn’t and I almost had my own health crisis as a result.
  7. Rest when you can. If you have small children, you know all too well how difficult it is to get the rest you need.  The same is true when you’re caring for other loved ones.  If you don’t, you won’t be able to provide the best care to your loved ones.
  8. Be forgiving of yourself and other caregivers. You’ll probably make some mistakes, but getting upset won’t help you get through the tough times any easier.

These are just some of the lessons I have learned during the last few months.  There will be more roadblocks, of that I am sure.