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Death in the family

February 19th, 2008 at 06:02 am

One day we got a call that my MIL had a stroke, but not to worry because it appeared to be mild. A week later we were hundreds of miles from home, attending her viewing. I can't believe everything happened so fast. She was 90, so it shouldn't have been a surprise, but it was. She was still driving til the end, and had just cooked a big dinner the night before the stroke.

Since this is a financial blog, I'll try to write about things from that perspective.

First of all, when you're in a crisis situation like this, you can't always do things the cheapest way. We took Amtrak, which probably cost a bit more than driving would have been. But we didn't want to drive that far in wintry weather, on roads we weren't familiar with. We could have gotten a AAA discount if we could have made our reservations sooner, but we didn't know the date of the viewing and funeral til after the discount deadline. I also just found out we could have gotten a discount on one return fare with a coupon code, but I didn't have time to search for codes beforehand.

I'm glad that we still had a credit card, and I hadn't closed it out as per Dave Ramsey. It was nice to be able to charge the train fare, reserve the rooms, buy DH some clothes and pay for the local obituary FAST. I had enough to do without running around, getting extra money into the account that has the debit card and waiting for the deposit to clear. OTOH, I'm glad we had some money in the Emergency Fund so we can pay the bill off right away.

It's a good idea to always have suitable clothes on hand for a funeral (or wedding), and sufficient traveling gear. We hadn't traveled in years, and had gotten rid of some crummy old luggage without replacing it. I had to run out and buy a cheap set of suitcases at the last minute. (Nope, I didn't have the time to check where they were made!) Luckily, I'd bought DH some dress shoes on sale awhile back, even though he rarely needs them. He also still had a suit that fit. But he needed a new shirt, and a coat to wear over the suit. His old bomber jacket would have just looked embarrassing. It would have been a lot less stressful if we'd had all of this stuff on hand to begin with.

My oldest BIL is executor, and when we last saw him he was having trouble even finding my MIL's social security number. He hadn't really been involved with her paperwork over the years, and lives at a distance, so he's going to have quite a job finding and making sense of things. I'm more determined than ever to arrange things so DH can manage if something happens to me. He doesn't do computers at all, so this will mean converting back to paper in a lot of ways.

Finally, and most importantly, my MIL's eulogy reminded me to spend less time on finances and more time on enjoying life. The contrast with my own mother is marked. MIL didn't end up with a fortune, but she had a lot of travel and other fun under her belt. She enjoyed trying new things when she had the chance. My own mother has been very careful about money and everything else over the years. Rather than trying new things, she's apt to wonder "why would anyone want to do that?" She's a worrier from way back. So I've been thinking about how I'd rather hear my life summed up, at the end.



12 Responses to “Death in the family”

  1. nance Says:

    Condolences on your loss.
    I think you are right. We need to spend some of that money on enjoyment, and creating wonderful memories.

  2. merch Says:

    Money is always second. Take care of what you need to first.

    As for converting everything to paper, I don't think you need to do that. I would just keep a folder that had everything in it. Accounts numbers, where they are, etc.

  3. Aleta Says:

    Sorry to hear of your loss and yes, although we think that we plan for the financial plans - sometimes we really don't. It's like you said about having to run out and get suitcases and not replacing them when it would have been more convenient and probably more reasonable. Also, keeping an article or aricles of clothing that could be interchanged and appropriate for an event like that or any event for that matter. Blacks and dark blues are used in many events.

    As for living life, you are exactly right. Although I love Dave Ramsey, I too believe that a credit card is pretty usesless in today's world. Some people can't have credit cards because the minute they use it, they're back to where they started. Much like alcoholics or anyone with an addictions.

    While it's extremely important to save money, it is also as important to live your life. Everyone should have some goals even if they are short ones. Paying bills 365 days a year can become gruesome. You are reading from someone who is debtfree and knows. We would take a small amount of money and do someting even if it was renting a video or going for a coffee. Living is important.

  4. Aleta Says:

    Sorry, I meant to say that a credit card is very useful in today's world in which we live.

  5. scfr Says:

    I am sorry for your loss, and you are absolutely right that there are times when you just must spend and not worry about it (which is why it is so important to have savings).

  6. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    Well explained. The sudden expenses of attending funerals was on my mind last night when I responded to someone's blog with a comment about the need for saving for out of town family events & family emergencies. Seems like most of us these days have family scattered around the country if not around the world. As with your MIL, death so often happens without much warning. My condolences, especially to her children.

  7. Carolina Bound Says:

    I hope this is not a duplicate comment -- I lost one somewhere.

    Just wanted you to know I am sorry for your loss.

    When my brother died in January, I also had to scramble for clothes and luggage, and I was also very glad I had a credit card for all the expenses, and an emergency fund to pay it off. I don't agree with Dave Ramsay's advice not to use credit cards. It's just important not to ABUSE them.

  8. Nic Says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. Glad you were able to take care of what needed to be done w/and w/out a card. Not everyone can think clearly during times of grief.

  9. mom-sense Says:


    so sorry about your loss - sounds like your MIL lived a full life, ninety years of independance is an awesome thing.

  10. Broken Arrow Says:

    Very sorry to hear about your loss. It does sound like she's lived a full life though, which is good to know.

  11. Thrifty Ray Says:

    I am sorry for your loss...I only hope to be well enough to drive and cook a big meal the night before I go...at 90!! I recently lost my dad---my heart goes out to your family.

  12. luxlivingfrugalis Says:

    So sorry to hear of your family's loss. Ninety and being a 'going-Jessie' as we call it around here - what a blessing that will be to know, that she had a full life lived right up to the last! That's how I want to be!!

    Just think though that if you'd of driven you'd have probably stopped for multiple meals, etc, that might have been included in your train fare?

    Good to have a CC available for just such emergencies!

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