Shuukatsu: End of Life Activities

I went a funeral this weekend.

My husband’s 86-year-old uncle passed away. We heard the news on Sunday and spent the weekend with family. While the funeral itself was somber, it wasn’t as tearful as I’d expected. Pretty much everyone knew he’d been at the hospital being treated for cancer.

Everyone was emotionally prepared for his death, had made their peace with him before he even died. In the few weeks he had left, he had spent a lot of time with family and prepared them for the time he would eventually pass.

This explains the above title. The Japanese word is 終活 or shuukatsu. The kanji is end and activity, respectively.

His immediate family had known since his cancer diagnosis that it was late stage and terminal. They’d done the preparations and gotten themselves ready.

Meanwhile, my husband and I were suddenly confronted with our own mortality. On the drive home from the funeral, we talked about how unprepared we were when it came to be our time.

We don’t have a will, a power of attorney, or basically anything that would direct our family and friends if one or both of us passes. The only thing we have is my husband’s life insurance policy if something happens to him. But I’ve told him in the past that I would be okay even if he doesn’t leave me anything–but this is with the assumption that I would still be able to be physically able to work. I do have written instructions for my family should anything happen to me, but it’s not legitimate and anyone could probably contest it if they so choose.

To be honest, because we don’t have any kids, we didn’t think about any of this stuff. We’ve had casual conversation of what we would like each other to do when either of us passes. I can recall my husband’s wishes, but none of them are written down. My husband knows what I would like him to do in my case, but again, it’s not formally expressed, so I’m not sure how much weight it has in a court of law.

Because I have assets in the US even though I live in Japan, my situation is a little bit unique. Those written instructions are not recognized legally because I don’t know how to go about doing it. I also haven’t been home in a long time. I also have some assets here in Japan that I need to worry about.

These things were supposed to be dealt with this year, during that three week break in between my school year. I had meant to call up a lawyer and a financial planner and go through these important adult stuff. If not the actual drafting of a will or formal financial plan, I wanted to talk to a professional about it.

However, with the pandemic happening, it got pushed to the back and I completely forgot about doing it. I still am a bit leery going out to an office and talking about it face to face with a lawyer, but I need to really think about it seriously especially because we just don’t know how things will work out with the pandemic and everything.

In a way, I am glad that we had this funeral this weekend. I am reminded again of living my best life and also being prepared to deal with anything unexpected that comes up. I think this will be the fire that lights up my butt and get me moving to finally deal with this honestly.

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