October 22, 2015. The sun was shining, the fall colors were in full effect and I was driving along a two-lane highway south of Traverse City coming back from an unscheduled afternoon trip and on my way to see my son’s cross country meet. There hadn’t been much traffic, and I was making good time. Then, I came up on a line of three or four cars and a stopped school bus. “Well,” I thought, “this might slow me down.”
I felt the impact at the same time I heard the crunch. Instantly thrown half spinning, half tipping into the ditch, I feel the car start to roll, stop, and come to rest. “I’m still here, I’m okay,” I say to myself, as I feverishly try to open the driver side door. I undo my seat belt, scramble to the other side, and get out via the passenger side door. I make my way out of the ditch and, for the first time, see the giant yellow cab of a semi-truck and its generic white trailer. I look back and see what’s left of our black hatchback: mangled metal pushed in about two feet ending where the rear seats began. I turn and sit on the hood of my vehicle and take a deep breath.
October 22, 2015. That could have been my date of death or perhaps the day I was left in a coma, relying on vents and tubes to keep me alive. I had no idea. Everything went right for me. I didn’t get pushed into the cars in front of me, the car didn’t roll over in the ditch, and I was able to get out on my own. But, it could have been so different. It could have been so much worse.
And, if it had, what would have happened to my family? Their lives would have been changed forever. If I had survived, but left to rely on machines to keep me so, I know that my wish to not live like that would be honored. If I hadn’t survived, I know that my wife would have received my retirement accounts and that she and our children would be supported by the life insurance we have maintained since our oldest was born. I know that my wife would be able to settle my estate and affairs without undue trouble, and I know that my desire to donate any useful organs to those in need of them would be known.
I know these things because I have an estate plan. I know them because my wife and I hadn’t avoided those hard conversations about whom we’d want to raise our kids, whether we’d want to live if we needed machines to do so, or how we would make sure our survivors would be taken care of financially.
I know these things, because we didn’t wait. What do you know? What are you waiting for?