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Plan for the Inevitable: How We Can Prepare for Death

Do you know how to die? That’s probably not a question you get asked every day. Most people don’t want to think about it and I can’t say I blame them. While those in dangerous occupations, such as police officers or soldiers, are forced to deal with the reality of death, the rest of us tend to put it off until a terminal illness or other tragic event occurs.

When people decide to buy life insurance, they are, in some way, acknowledging the fact that they will die. But very few consider how they will die. The clients with whom I have broached this subject with often brush it off with a sarcastic or humorous response, which is one way to avoid the more serious side of the issue. (For more, see: Estate Planning: Health Problems, Money Matters And Death.)

In my career as a life insurance salesperson, I have expedited many death claims. I also accompanied both my parents in the final stage of their lives, helping them make their final preparations. One critical lesson I have learned from this experience is that how you die is very much a result of how you live. The more peace you have found in this lifetime, the more peace you will have when you leave it.

Here are three ways in which a peaceful life can lead to a peaceful death:

Get Your Financial House in Order

Nobody wants to deal with money issues. If you make financial mistakes when you are young, you have the luxury of time to recover from them. But when you are old, your capability of generating new income is limited. When you enter the last stage of your life, you don't want it to be fraught with financial worries.

What does it mean to plan ahead and prepare? Think through a big picture blueprint for all of your assets to protect your investments, your legacy, and most importantly, your loved ones, then start taking steps to get all the pieces in place. (For more, see: 3 Things to Get in Order Before You Die.)

Find Peace With Those Around You

When people realize their last day is coming, they understand they are out of second chances. There is no time left to tell people how you feel or to apologize for your misdeeds. You don't want to die with regrets and remorse on your conscience, so get in the habit of clearing your slate with those in your life. If you owe someone money, make sure you pay off the debt in full. If you owe someone an apology, give it immediately. Delaying may only result in running out of time.

Set the Stage for a Comfortable Transition

It’s crucial for people to feel that they are in a good, safe place with the right relationships, the right job, the right school. Don't settle for less by sticking it out in an uncaring environment. This will be especially important to you in the final stage of your life.

I have found that people really care about where they die. Both my parents were adamant about not ending their life in a nursing home. They wanted to die at home, in familiar surroundings, amongst caring people. Because it was a priority to them, my family made sure it happened the way they desired. As an example, one of the most inspiring stories I've heard was of a gentleman who spent almost his entire life in one home, tending a luscious garden for many years. When he knew that his final day had arrived, he simply walked into that garden, his favorite place, and lay down. That is where his wife found him. (For more from this author, see: Caring for Your Aging Parents With Compassion.)