My Gold Star Exit Plan

When I retired from teaching in 2017, I had an exit plan. I recorded my students' grades, printed off a copy of my classroom's inventory, and left notes in my desk where to find some essential testing materials. I even gave away all my stickers and gold stars. A week after I checked out of school for the last time, I learned that I have myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). Now, I'm thinking about my final exit plan.

Get your house in order... don't leave a mess!

My friend's parents passed away last year, and I remembered her saying, "My folks never got rid of anything." I went to their estate sale and discovered that she wasn't exaggerating. They had a lovely home, so I'm guessing their closets and cabinets must have been full. I have set a goal to sell, donate, or trash one item weekly. That's 52 things gone in a year. If I don't use it or love it, out it goes! This ritual will make less stuff to sell at my estate sale.

Don't love anything that can't love you back. Don't worry about who gets the family heirlooms. Sell your items, if your relatives aren't interested. Guess what? The younger generation doesn't care about mink stoles, china, crystal, or silver. Our lesson learned here is don't love anything that can't love you back!

Write your life story

If you don't feel up to writing your story, ask a family member to record you. They can ask questions about your life. Why is this such a good idea? My cousin, Bob, wasn't even sure where his mother was born! His mother, Nadine, and my mother, Wilma, were first cousins. They had grown close in the last ten years of Nadine's life. Bob had to call my mother to confirm the facts when he was planning his mother's funeral. "Don't go anywhere, Wilma! I might have to call you back!" Do your family a favor and write this information down for them.

Have a central location

Have a central location in your home where to place important papers. Maybe your desk drawer or a particular cabinet would work. You don't want your kin to have to tear up the house looking for your birth certificate or advance directive. (While we're on the subject, discard things you wouldn't want anyone to see. I heard about a lady who found her father's porn collection. Not good.) Think about writing letters to your loved ones. Grief does awful things to your mind, body, and soul. A message will let them know that you were thinking of them. Who wouldn't love that!

Tell your family your last wishes

It's your body and your funeral. If you don't tell your family what you want, they won't know. Write down the location, music, pallbearers, etc. Remember, funerals are to help the surviving grieve.

I don't mean to sound morbid writing this article. I keep telling myself that I could die of old age with MDS because numbers on my oncologist's chart don't predict the future. We should plan for the worst and hope for the best. My faith in God tells me that I have the gold star exit plan.

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