The Unintended Consequences Of Mortality

I don’t mean to inject depressing subjects into what has otherwise been a very happy and joyful exercise, but the subject needs to be covered at least a little bit before I move on.

April 1st of 2014 was a significant date for me;  it marked the launch of Amazing Stories’ 88th Anniversary issue (Volume 75, Number 1), my mother’s birthday and the death of my father.

My father had been sick for about a year (apparently the diagnosis of the cancer that eventually killed him also took place on April 1st of last year) so this was not a sudden surprise.  And yes, I’m managing to deal with it pretty well;  it seems that I’ve been gifted with a quality that allows me to handle this kind of thing fairly well emotionally (that quality has unfortunately had opportunities to manifest previously).

I’ve only one real regret and that is that my father was unable to appreciate the on-going success of Amazing Stories, something that I would have liked to have shared with him.

Which brings me to the advice I would like to pass on to all of you as most of you have loved ones who will pre-decease you.

My role at the moment is to handle all of the arrangements – the funeral and memorial service, the finances, the legalities, straightening up my father’s affairs.

My father was a meticulous, precise, detail-oriented person.  Someone who was largely capable of handling just about anything thrown at him, and someone who was not happy unless HE was the one doing whatever needed doing.  (When I was younger and in my model building phase I completed an Aurora Universal Monsters model of Dracula and awoke in the morning to find it completely painted;  I was apparently not completing my ‘fun’ quickly enough to satisfy him….)

Arnold Davidson was born in Brooklyn NY, a depression era baby, attended Brooklyn College, did a stint in the army during the Korean War and ultimately ended up a PhD as a psycho-pharmacologist directing international medical research trials for a major drug firm; his personality matched the requirements of his profession very well.  His specialty area was neurological drugs and I’ve often wondered over the years if I wasn’t actually one of his trial subjects.

I’ve spent the past four days or so sorting through volumes of paperwork that probably rival that of the holdings in the Alexandrian library.  Certain key documents (military discharge, deed to the house, etc) couldn’t be located.  It wasn’t until my mother mentioned a lock box in his closet that I discovered that my labors had been unnecessary – if my father had bothered to tell anyone that he’d (precisely, meticulously) gathered everything together in one place.

Please don’t wait until a loved one has passed on to make sure you have everything necessary in hand.  Gather those important life documents together, clearly identify and label them, make copies and, above all, provide several trusted someones with copies and information on where your originals can be found.

I’ll not go into a lot of detail as everyone’s circumstances are different, but things like contact information for attorneys, doctors, accountants, financial advisers, pension funds, bank accounts, deeds and paperwork for major holdings (houses, cars, boats, etc) should be easily obtainable.  Directives, funeral arrangements, designations for power of attorney, health care & etc., should all be in one place, clearly identified and easily located.  (And don’t forget the internet crappola – passwords, email addresses, etc., especially if banking and bill paying are conducted online.)

Sometimes putting these things together can be difficult;  talking about the end of life with family is often a subject that is assiduously avoided.  I’ll suggest that no one wants to leave any more work or grief for their loved ones when they pass than is necessary.  No matter how unpleasant dealing with these kinds of things is while one is alive is nothing compared to having to try and piece everything together after you are gone.  You’ll be doing your family a kindness by taking care of it before hand.

If you don’t feel you can trust loved ones, or don’t think they can handle the details, set everything up with an attorney, give the attorney contact information and make sure the attorney’s contact information is readily available.

My father’s memorial service will take place this coming Monday, April 7th at the Beth Israel Memorial Chapel in Boynton Beach, Florida. The family is asking that if anyone wishes to make a donation in his name, they do so with the American Cancer Society.  (Details will be available on the Beth Israel website.)

Rest In Peace Dad.

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Dr. Arnold B. Davidson, 1930 – 2014.

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