How to deal with when someone has died

Mon 26 March – Sun 1 April 2018

Overall, a pretty bad one last week. I suppose the best I can take from it is that it gave me new experiences and built character (that’s another way of saying it was bloody hard). One of my old chaps in Brighton who I keep an eye on died.

Brian died on Wednesday

Brian was diagnosed with lung cancer (if you smoke – stop it now!) a few months ago. Things went downhill fast. Literally a couple of weeks ago he was moved to a nursing home because he was completely unable to look after himself at home. Though in reality that had been true for longer. 🙁

The day itself

My Facebook post below describes what happened with a call on Thurs morning at 6.30am. The medication ensured he was not in any pain nor was he anxious. He had a number of visitors during the day including the Methodist Church minister in the morning. When he died in the room with him were me, his cousin, and his friend with her dog. It was actually one of those slightly comedic situations where nobody was certain he had died and the staff had to come to double-check.

Dealing with the officialdom of death

With the fact Brian had died, I was ushered into a new world of officialdom that I suspect we will all have to deal with at some stage in our life. But it is not pleasant. A world of

  • Informing all his friends and relatives
  • Arranging to collect the death certificate
  • Sorting out a funeral director to collect the body (if not part of a pre-prepared funeral plan)
  • Liaising with the priest to do the service
  • Booking an appointment to register the death (needs to be done legally within 5 days of the death)
  • Arranging a meeting with the funeral directors to arrange the service
  • Also setting up a meeting with the solicitors to sort out his estate and will
  • Needing to go through and collect all his relevant paperwork to be able to do the above

Saturday in Brighton

So lots of phonecalls on Thurs before Good Friday followed by a day in Brighton on Sat. Dave hired a car and we drove down. First stop, the nursing home to collect the death certificate. Don’t believe all the negatives about care homes, this one has been wonderfully helpful (as well as clean and modern). They set his room up beautifully and I packed up all Brian’s stuff to take to his flat. The next few hours were spent at the flat with me and Dave sorting through stuff – identifying the key papers that the solicitor needs whilst also cleaning, tidying up, and generally sorting out the mess.

Some light relief

Nice to meet my old mate Rob for lunch as I needed we really needed a break from a pretty grim task. Also the amusement of collecting together all Brian’s meds spread around the flat and taking them to the pharmacy to be disposed of. ‘Are there any controlled drugs’, they asked? HTF would I know what a controlled drug is? Bit like when a vet once asked me if I knew my cat only had one testicle – no, how would I know? I then had to wait whilst they checked them all. FFS I could have just put them in the bin or down the loo.

Appreciating my lovely family and partner

Dave drove us back on Sat afternoon to see my mum who this weekend is hosting my brother, his dog, plus my niece and nephew. Lovely to see them – I stayed with Dave this weekend to make sure her flat wasn’t too crowded. I was grumpy when I first arrived, after all it had been a very busy day. But I chilled and it was lovely to simply be around your youthful enthusiasm.

Brian’s ghost LOL

Spirit linesMy niece and nephew particularly liked Dave telling them about what he thinks might be Brian’s ghost. All crap but two strange things happened last week after Brian had died. I don’t believe in ghosts but I’m pretty sure if it is Brian’s then there is nothing to be scared of (although he and Dave didn’t get on well…)

First, a big pane of glass at Dave’s flat just shattered completely. His flat is double glazed and this was the inside pane of one of them. Thus it wasn’t caused by the glass being hit externally. Second, the following night Dave has created a Easter decoration of branches that just collapsed dramatically.

Lessons for the living: planning and letting go

My lovely readers please learn two lessons for how to deal with when someone has died.

First, make sure everything is planned and talk about it in advance. Ensure a will has been made, sort out the details of the funeral including who are the funeral directors, double-check there is provision for the cost of the funeral and the solicitors. If the person who has died was healthy and young enough, can their body parts be donated for people who desperately need them?

Second, get rid of stuff. We collect stuff as we go through our lives and when we have died, it is basically junk that some poor sod has to sort getting rid of. And forget any idea that you are leaving any valuable objects unless you are stinking rich. The Antiques Roadshow has a lot to answer for in brain-washing people that old stuff has secret value – it’s accumulated stuff, that is it.

Flare – the London LGBTQ+ Film Festival

Flare imageEaster is my favourite holiday so much better than Christmas because it signals summer is coming though I like the party atmosphere of Christmas over the enforced retrospection of New Year. Me and Dave are chilling in London this year rather than being in Berlin or elsewhere as has happened a lot recently.

Indeed, it’s fortunate that we were here with everything needing to be done following the fact that Brian has died. One of this year’s nice coincidences is that Flare (the London LGBTQ+ film festival) ran across Holy Week. Saw one film the previous week (Martyr) which I’ve blogged about and several more last week:

‘Stumped’

A true-life documentary of a man who weirdly contracted sepsis for no apparent reason and this led to him having both legs and arms amputated. The film was the story of how he dealt with this, largely through the vehicle of comedy by being a ‘stand-up’ comedian. There was also the story of his relationship with his boyfriend and his arm transplants. Particularly moving to hear from the family of the man whose arms were donated. How to make a better world in 2 easy ways: give blood and sign up to be an organ donor when you die.

‘Dangerous Atmospheres’

Actually a collection of four long short films:

  • ‘Our Way Back’, an Israeli film about an illicit affair between a younger and older man. Their secret weekend away forces them to both face up to how willing each is up to being open about their love. The older man particularly having his straight persona to worry about.
  • ‘Neptune’, the weakest film of the four is Brazilian and has very little dialogue. Fundamentally it’s the story of an older man’s unrequited desire for a younger one.
  • ‘Between Here and Now’ is a Danish film about a mysterious young Italian man visiting Copenhagen. A relationship happens but it’s all mysterious and we never know the full story.
  • ‘Ursinho’, another film set in Brazil though made by a French crew. It’s a bleak story of a very closeted and shy gay man who falls in love. A story of poverty, rejection, abuse, and blackmail. It makes you realise how shit some people’s lives are.

‘Mario’

Me and Dave went to this one together on Sun afternoon. Usually I go on my own to the cinema as we have very different tastes. I like foreign language, deep films. He prefers English-language, colour (not black and white), a clear story with a happy ending, and ideally singing and dancing as well.

Mario is not a cheerful film but a very good one. It’s a subtle exploration of homophobia in football and the pressure on professional football players not to come out. There is no happy ending but there is also no cop-out, simply hard reality including the prisons we make for ourselves by following our ambitions.

LGBT rainbow flag

‘Freak Show’ – the one that got away

Worth noting that I did actually miss one film I had booked to see. This was due to happen on Thurs and the film was ‘Freak Show’, an American movie about a young out gay student moving to an unfriendly school. I just needed some space after the drama of Brighton and Brian dying the day before.

Health and Efficiency

Gym

3 times last week. Could have been 4 but Sat was spent dealing with stuff in Brighton. Went to the gym on the mornings of Tues, Thurs, and Sun. All good sessions just doing just weights. Thurs was particularly good as the gym was very empty and I needed a cathartic session after the stress of the previous day rushing down to Brighton and then being with Brian when he died.

Jog-run

lady running in cold weatherI was really in the mood for this on Good Friday morning, determined to do it. Thankfully the weather was OK. Indeed, it deteriorated through the rest of the day ending up with cold wind and rain.

I’m not back to my full 10K yet, I’m going to have to work my way up to that. But a decent enough jog-run albeit with a slow pace. Four months off and another half stone on.

INR and the problems of being an empowered patient

warfarin tabletsHad to get my INR (test to measure my blood-clotting levels) done on Mon morning, it was well overdue. Unfortunately the reading suggests I’m prone to clotting again. The remedy is to increase my warfarin dosage.

As someone who has lived with this for years, I am an empowered patient who knows what is the next thing to do. The warfarin dosage should increase and I know by how much. However, the GP has decided effectively no change in warfarin dosage and return next week for another test. It’s almost certainly going to be the same meaning more doctor visits. I hate the way people in the NHS assume you have nothing else to do in your life beyond attending appointments. 🙁 This is the reason why I sometimes skip appointments.

Personal Development

Over-promising and under-delivering

Big failure last week compared to what I had planned. In my previous blog here, I had said my week ahead would hopefully include 2 museum late events (Science on Wed and V&A on Fri) as well as possibly also a church service at St Matthew’s in Westminster where my friend is a priest and a church that does beautiful Easter services. I failed on all 3 things.

Wed night at the Science Museum went because I was travelling back from Brighton and dealing with the fact Brian had died. Fri night I was tired after over 3 hours of film-watching at Flare. Thurs was just a general recovery day after Brighton and Brian’s death the day before. Indeed, I also missed the big farewell party for everybody at work who was leaving now Sport Relief was over. I have lost some great colleagues. 🙁

The usual: languages, coding, emails

Duolingo was OK but not brilliant; 5 days out of 7. But I really should not give myself a hard time as the 2 days missed were Wed when Brian died and Sat when I was sorting stuff out in Brighton. No coding practice. 🙁 But I managed to keep personal emails under control. Work ones less successful simply because so many are about people wanting to meet and there is so little time to do this. 🙁

Innovation and Creativity

innovation labs

Themes

Just two days in work last week and I had to leave early on Wed to get to Brighton in time to see Brian before he died. But there were also some meetings on Tues when, in theory, I was not working. So thematic highlights from last week:

  • Me and my job-share colleague Dilhani are now starting to focus on shaping our new Influencing strategy as the noise of Sport Relief is over and our new team is nearly all in place. We are working on presenting something to the next Leadership team to get their buy-in.
  • Me and Jen met up with the person who is taking over leading on our social investment work. Primarily the need was to brief him on the general direction we will be taking and that he needs to refine / develop.
  • There was also an internal meeting to look at usage of crowdfunding platforms and how this might develop. The overall idea is to encourage more people to donate to charity because it is easier and more fun to do. We are also thinking about where we go with our crowdmatch work whereby we put up a grant that is drawn down by crowdfunding the same amount. We know it works for small grants but what about big ones?

How crowdfunding works

People

Also a series of excellent meetings with these people:

  • Ed Anderton – we met Mon morning to discuss social investment and also the new work he is doing with Lloyds Bank Foundation to develop a shared diagnostic service for social organisations to identify their strengths and weaknesses
  • Mary Rose Gunn – my Mon afternoon meeting. Mary runs The Fore Trust which is a great organisation providing funding and business support to charities. It works from the premise of funding great ideas rather than asking the charities to fit their own funding priorities.
  • Alex Swallow – Tues afternoon catch-up. Alex is a really nice bloke and a social good consultant with a particular interest in influencing – website here. He also runs a campaign to get more young people to be charity trustees. His life partner Nisha Kotecha is also a nice person and runs the positivity website Good News Shared. Fascinating that Alex’s dad knows my other old chap in Brighton (the who hasn’t died) Bob – small world.
  • Stephen Hale – Wed morning 9am meeting. Stephen is the CEO of Refugee Action. We had been put in touch by Dan Sutch of CAST. We talked tech and how it can be used to change an organisation. Don’t think we always saw eye-to-eye but that is not a bad thing. Too much similarity and agreement discourages innovation.
  • Laura Richards – Wed morning 11.30am. This was my last meeting before I rushed off to Brighton to catch Brian before he died. I had to honour this meeting despite everything going on as Laura had travelled from Sunderland for it. She works as part of the Digital Catapult initiative, with one of her particular interests being how to make North East charities better at using digital to deliver their services.

progress being made

Tech4Good Awards

These are open – please consider applying or letting relevant people / projects know about them. Closing date for submissions is 8 May.

Books and Reading

Unfortunately I didn’t reach my target set last week of reading least one book last week. Main problem being that I’ve got 2 on the go. I am still reading ‘Ready Player One’ by Ernest Cline which is a good sci-fi/fantasy adventure with a homage to the 1980s and gaming during that decade in particular.

The other is one we were supposed to read for my monthly LGBT reading group – Velvet Page. However I couldn’t attend the meeting when it was discussed. The book is ‘Insomniac City’ by Bill Hayes. A wonderfully eclectic book that particularly looks at the author’s relationship with Oliver Sacks.

The Week Ahead

  • Bank Holiday Monday when I plan just to chill and catch up on life stuff
  • Tues it is down to Brighton to meet Brian’s main living relative (cousin) to register his death, meet the funeral directors to plan his cremation, and then catch up with the solicitors about sorting his estate
  • Work on 2 days next week: Wed and Fri. Lots of internal meetings though hopefully I will also be catching up with Lynn from Mayday, Cosmina of Rainmaker Foundation, and Robbie from UsCreates.
  • Thurs afternoon is a chance to meet with Kieran and Nick to find out how their new data collection tool to help charities identify impact is shaping up beneficiary.io
  • Hopefully 2 gym sessions and 1 jog-run
  • INR again on Wed, must keep my cool if nothing has changed and I’m still below the required level
  • Target is duolingo everyday plus some coding practice (it will only be a little bit if any at all) and keeping on top of emails
  • Finishing Ready Player One
  • Attending Velvet Page on Thurs though not sure I will have read our book before then, ‘Hidden Nature: A Voyage of Discovery’ by Alys Fowler
  • Sunday it’s down to Brighton again for a stay-over with Dave planned long ago. Hopefully I can avoid Brian stuff and concentrate on my other old chap Bob
  • No evening commitments apart from Thursday’s Velvet Page, at least then I won’t disappoint myself by being too tired to attend something

And Finally…

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