January 15th, 2021

Death an educational experience

By Lethbridge Herald on April 1, 2019.

Al Beeber
Lethbridge Herald
Death isn’t entertaining. It’s heartbreaking, soul-destroying and spirit-crushing. For those who are entrusted to be executors of a loved one’s will, it’s also demanding and exhausting.
I’m learning that with an exclamation mark. I knew before my dad died, I was the one he entrusted to take care of business. He’d told me multiple times; what he didn’t say was last year he added my brother as co-executor which meant two signatures on every form that needed to be signed. With him up north and me closer to dad’s residence in Calgary, it made sense for me to take on the whole job.
And it’s become an experience that is something to write about. Dad thought he was going to get out of hospital alive after he was admitted on Feb. 26 but he didn’t and starting on March 9, I began the arduous process of dealing with the aftermath.
Dad told me where his will was — what he didn’t say, or leave any information about, was financial information. Bank cards in his wallet and a few dated statements I found after poring through box after box of material we took out of drawers, provided me with clues.
But the search for investments and debts has been much akin to an Easter egg hunt. I’ve been making multiple phone calls and visiting various institutions to glean information for the accountant and his estate lawyer.
Only because the company name was on his TV boxes did I learn who to contact about closing his cable account. An old bill from 2016 told me who his utility provider was.
I knew driving home from Calgary one night with his ashes and the can of bear spray he accidentally used on himself in Ontario, this was going to be challenging. I also had to laugh that dad and the bear spray and I were still together. Humour comes in handy during times like these, trust me.
And I’ve learned an important lesson — we all need to be ready for the inevitable. As I go through this process, I’m planning to make sure my family knows what they need to make the process smoother.
And what we need to do is be organized. Store current bank statements in an envelope or file folder. Ditto with investment updates.
One thing I desperately need to do is update my will which hasn’t been done since my son was young. My lawyer long ago retired and I kind of think I’ve forgotten what law office he was even with.
This is the type of thing none of us can afford to do. All I can remember about my lawyer, and it’s embarrassing, is his name was Garry. I know that’s bad but life gets busy and we get distracted.
Since dad’s demise, I’m realizing distraction isn’t a good thing unless you’re a dog and even then it can be dangerous. We need to be focused and prepared and make life easier for those we leave behind.
When I last saw dad, he looked good, was alert and laughing. I thought he dodged a bullet and we’d be back having lunch soon at his favourite Calgary restaurant. But the next day, he started slipping. And each day got worse.
I’m glad we had our time last summer together in Ontario; it was a bonding experience of a lifetime.
I saw him as often as I could  and when my son was working as an emergency medical technician in the oilpatch, it was regularly because I would drive Dylan to, and pick him up at, the Calgary airport every three weeks. And I always stopped to have coffee with dad and his wife.
For years, dad and his friend Mel Ray of Strathmore joined my local crew, who dad knew from Raymond when we were kids, at the motorcycle and boat shows in Calgary.
Those exhibitions were regular rituals that were always entertaining since dad was not only a motorcyclist unti his early 80s but a fisherman until the end. And as he aged, he became a truly fun guy to hang around with, more like friend than father.
On that Ontario trip, he told me time and again, he trusted me to do the right thing when he was gone.
He wanted assurance that his affairs would be handled professionally and timely and when I think about it, I’m wondering if he knew that trip was going to be his last.
I’ve since learned dad kept a stone face after his wife died but he confided to a couple of people that he was lonely beyond words. His reason for living perhaps died last February when his long-time wife took her last breath. So maybe his 87-year-old heart finally just completely broke.
Wherever dad is now — OK, he’s in a closet but you know what I mean — he doesn’t have to worry about that happening again because I’ll put in whatever time and energy it takes to make sure his final testament is handled the way he wanted.
Rest in peace, buddy. And don’t touch bear spray if you come across any. Please. Don’t. Touch.
THE DIRT: I managed last weekend to catch the new Netflix film called “The Dirt,” which is based upon the autobiography of glam metal band Motley Crüe.
This film isn’t for everyone given the wild life that the band lived but to me, it was fantastic. The casting was brilliant, with all four actors capturing the essence of the band members they portrayed.
I doubt it will get any Oscar buzz given that it tends to be X-rated but I was far more impressed with “The Dirt” than the Queen biography.
It was fun and completely over-the-top — just like the Crüe.
Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter.

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