Life after you
Easter weekend was ever so close. Good Friday was looming, and four days of quiche, chocolate, and joy lay in touching distance. And I was sat in a hotel foyer, a workbook entitled ‘Your Life After Your Death’ in my hands.
I’d never held anything like it, content-wise. It felt odd, a bit surreal. “The aim of this book,” reads page two, “is to assist you to provide a comprehensive summary of your day to day life and final wishes which will help your loved ones or executor when the time comes to finalise your life’s formalities.”
It’s been given to me by Lin Worthy, who sits opposite me. She spent 27 years in the pub industry, during which time she lost her parents and her husband. Following these events she exited the trade and relocated to Kidlington, taking up “a little office job to tide me over”, and then working as a freelance PA for small businesses.
About three years ago one of her neighbours passed away, leaving behind a widower with mobility issues and no family around him. “So I stepped in,” Lin says, telling me how she helped with registering the death and the funeral arrangements. After the funeral came “getting the house sorted out”, finding a cleaner, and a carer for the gentleman in question. “The work didn’t stop once I’d helped with the bereavement side of it.”
She enjoyed it, “It was just something different, and a nice little project to have worked on.” She realised that there must be others in similar situations to the one she had been involved in. Talking to probate lawyers and funeral directors, she saw “a niche” in between what both these industries do for people. She set up Worthy Conclusions, “a different arm to my PA business”, to help people following the passing of a loved one, to assist with the potentially overwhelming jobs death brings.
A few years back, Kicking the Bucket Festival invited Lin to conduct a workshop. “I’ve got 20 minutes. What do I do?” She said to herself, before writing down stuff she’d already gone through with her clients: Who has spare keys to the deceased’s house? Where’s the stopcock? What are their login details for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn? Do they have a dog? If so, what exercise and food does he or she need? “I started this list,” Lin recounts, “and that’s when I created the workbook (which I then cut down for the workshop).”
The workbook, she says, complements rather than replaces a will. “Everybody – no matter what age – should have a will, and it should be reviewed every five years as circumstances change.” What she has crafted delves into the finer details of a person’s life; that’s what Worthy Conclusions is about, the businesswoman says, “trying to educate people to document the minute details of their lives to make it easier for those left behind.”
She’s “not scared to talk about the subject of death and everything that goes with it. I think people find that quite useful – very often family members shy away from talking to each other about it.” She speaks to me about one couple who were quite distressed that their daughter would not discuss plans for after they’d died, “Don’t worry about that, we’ve got plenty of time yet,” she used to say. “I worked with them and we completed the workbook. I helped them find their paperwork and we filed it all in one place. They now haven’t got to have that conversation with the daughter.”
When she lost her parents, she found herself wondering – for example – what music her mother would have liked at her funeral. “You try to second-guess it,” she tells me, which is apparently more stressful than a list saying “This is what we want doing, just follow it” would have been.
I look at the publication on the table we’re at. I’m only 24, should I be putting my details in one of these? I ask. “Yes,” Lin says softly, kindly, matter-of-factly; after all, anything could happen. People automatically associate preparing for death with older people, she states, “but the younger people do need to think about it.” To this end she has also produced the workbook in the form of an app, for those “who don’t do books and things these days.”
Her mission is simple in concept, if something of a task: “to get everybody with a copy of this book. The more people that have it the better life will be for everybody else. And once you’ve got all that information in there, it’s dealt with, you can get on with enjoying life, you haven’t got to worry about it.”
Easter weekend was closer, and our conversation reached its end. I took the workbook home with me – and not just for journalistic reasons, nor just out of courtesy. There’s a section where you list your school friends; it’s not taking long.
The Planning For Life After You app can be downloaded free from iTunes for Apple iPhone and iPad, and Google Play Store for Android devices.
Dying Matters Awareness Week takes place 8th-14th May. Find out more at dyingmatters.org.
Related Articles: The cost of caring