You probably haven’t thought about death today. Even though it’s the only certainty in life, you’re not alone: most people avoid thinking about death, and put off preparing for it. Death means sadness, and getting old, and the end. It scared the hell out of me until I had three run-ins with death that made me consider my own mortality. Those experiences inspired me to start a company that’s trying to change the way people look at and plan for the end.
The first run-in with death happened while I was working at a cement plant. My uncle worked there for 39 years and helped me secure a spot as a summer student years before working there for five years. My uncle was well-respected and spent countless shifts working during Christmas, birthdays and other special occasions. I’ll never forget the call the day he died. It was 7:30am and I had just finished my morning meeting, and I knew a call coming that early couldn’t have been anything good. It was my brother, and he said three words: “Dave is dead.”
My uncle took his own life for reasons we will never know, an event that we still question to this day. There were no warning signs, and we didn’t have the slightest idea that something was wrong. When someone passes away unexpectedly it hits a family hard, and we spent a lot of time looking for something or someone to blame for what happened. We also had to plan the funeral, which proved difficult because in 35 years of marriage my aunt and uncle never had a conversation about wishes or arrangements. He had a will and life insurance, but they never had the “what if?” talk. Ask yourself right now: if you died today would your family know your wishes and arrangements or how to close up your life? My guess is no; chances are you haven’t had that conversation. As a family we had to think what he would want, and we argued over what we thought Dave would want. Some questions we couldn’t answer with 100% certainty, and that’s something that can stay with you for a long time.
My second run-in with death happened a year later when I was hospitalized for seven days with septic arthritis. During my stay I inevitably thought about dying, and those “what if’s” came up. Did the experience of my uncle passing away not teach me the importance of having a plan? The thing that kept playing in my head was my girlfriend and family arguing about what I would want. Where would they have a service, what kind of service, would they know I wanted to be cremated? My parents didn’t know, and I definitely didn’t talk to my girlfriend about it. With my uncle’s passing, I thought there should be a better way for people to leave instructions for loved ones when someone passes, but I wasn’t sure what that would be.
My seven days in the hospital turned into six months off work due to blood clots formed by complications from medications. My third run-in with death happened after I went back to work on modified duties. On the morning of February 27, 2014 it was -23 without the windchill, and there was a 96-car pile-up on highway 400. I wasn’t involved in that accident, thankfully I missed it by an hour, but on the way back I was hit by an unexpected whiteout. I was the tenth car in a ten-car pile-up. Once the snow cleared and saw there were enough cars stopped safely behind me, I figured we were safe from more collisions. That’s when my co-worker and I heard yelling coming from outside on the ground. I saw a young woman who looked in shock at what she saw, someone who was seriously hurt. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw: a guy about the same age as me, lying on the ground with his leg severed just below his knee. I was trained in First Aid, but not for dealing with this. I told him he would be ok, and that help was on the way. I also used my co-worker’s belt to put a tourniquet on his leg to stop the bleeding. While we were waiting for the ambulance to arrive we talked, and he asked me to tell his wife that he loved her, and to tell his son he loved him and to be a good boy. It seemed like forever for for the authorities to show up. The man ended up losing the bottom part of his leg, and his life would be forever changed, but he survived.
It was through these experiences that I really started thinking of creating a system to easily leave instructions behind for loved ones. They led to the creation of Final Blueprint, and I now feel it’s my duty to tell my story so people see the importance of having a plan. I’m trying to change the way people plan for death. It can be scary to think about, but people need to talk about it. Growing up, parents and kids have sex talks, drug talks and I believe as people get older a death talk should follow. Accidents happen every single day, the next time you hear about a victim on the news, think about their family and what comes next for them. Talking about death isn’t for your benefit, it’s to make things easier on a family should something happen to you. I believe people avoid thinking about death because they associate the word death with old people. It makes sense, and in some way it’s a built-in mechanism or time-delaying tactic that gives your mind a pass from having to think about death until you hit a certain age.
No one knows what tomorrow will hold, and it’s not promised to anyone. I’m just one example of how unexpected life can be. Some people are planners, and some people choose to deal with things as the come up. Hopefully my story makes you think differently about death, and consider putting together a plan.
That being said, have fun and enjoy your life, and don’t forget Ferris Bueller’s famous quote: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it”.
Founder of Final Blueprint