Is death a solution to all problems?

Instructions for use for the end of life

The problem: Most Germans have no will, and certainly no detailed wish list of what to do with them and their possessions towards the end of their lives.
The solution: Farewell parties during lifetime.

Amy Pickard is a lively, fun-loving American with curly blond hair and an infectious, broad smile. She's also the CEO of a company called "Good to Go!" With exclamation marks, and what she sells with her company is even blacker and harder than Coffee to Go: She wants you to worry about who your belongings are Who will make decisions in the event you become incapacitated and what to do with your remains.

When her own mother died unexpectedly in 2012, she left Pickard not only with shock and sadness, but also with a host of practical problems: “She was still there on Sunday, she was gone on Monday. A nightmare. "Instead of being able to take time to grieve, Pickard was busy with detective work:" You wander through the grief jungle, but at the same time you have to take care of all the logistics. I had a million questions. ”What bills have to be paid? Did she have online accounts and what are the passwords? “What do you think she would like me to do with her personal affairs? Your laptop? Your photos? ”Pickard soon realized that there were no end-of-life instructions. “So I decided to write one. Just so that other people can have an easier time than me. "She took a year off from her job as a television producer, and when she wondered how best to get her ideas out there, it occurred to her," Why are we doing it no party out of it? "

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How she goes about it may take a little getting used to, namely with humor. Pickard, 50, wears a black T-shirt that reads in large white letters: "Life is a near-death experience." Her company logo is similar to the Facebook logo: a thumbs up on a blue background. In a good mood and in summery colorful hippie clothes, Pickard organizes Good to Go! - parties, G2G for short, as their often young customers abbreviate. Because Pickard thinks that one should not only deal with the end of life from 85, but at the latest by mid-30s, preferably already at 18. “I don't pretend that death is something romantic, but I want it to Normalize conversations about it. Death is part of life. Point. And since I've been dealing with it professionally, I've come to appreciate life a lot more. "

In this country, too, the vast majority of people (two thirds, more than 80 percent of those under 45) have no will, and certainly no detailed wish list of what should happen to them and their possessions towards the end of their lives. At All Souls Day we remember the dead; Almost everyone knows their peers who have already passed away, but who wants to get close to the idea that it could be over for you tomorrow? "Even when people are diagnosed with a terminal illness and know that it is coming to an end, they postpone everything until it's too late," says Alua Arthur from Los Angeles. The 37-year-old is a midwife by profession, but not for the beginning of life, but for the beginning of the end. As a death doula, the former lawyer, with her own organization “Going with grace”, helps people in the last hours of their lives: “People don't spend enough time thinking about what they want and communicating that. «

This is what the Good to Go! Parties are for, which should take away the shyness of discussing the last things. Pickard, who actually comes from the entertainment industry and "never thought of becoming the Death Girl" until her mother died, compares the parties to "Tupperware parties, only with the theme of death." You invite your closest friends and bring drinks and food (everyone brings a deceased person's favorite dish), and at some point you sit down together and go through the farewell files. Who will get my record collection? How do I want to be buried? Are there distant relatives or former friends to call? A "story of the joy of life" is also part of the planning, thoughts on all the things that give you the greatest joy in life. "It's great to discuss that at a party, but less so when someone is in the intensive care unit."

With this concept, Amy Pickard not only reaches the older generation on Facebook, but also the young. No state-bearing white lilies, no melancholy Chopin, but rock'n'roll and beer. Pickard even provides a rocking death playlist: Another one bites the dust and Kockin` on Heaven`s Door are at the top of the list. "I'm not a lawyer, I'm not a doctor, I'm someone who has been through this myself and wants to help others with it."

When Pickard's father died four years after his mother, she was prepared: “It was a huge relief to look him in the eye in the hospital when he could no longer speak and to say: Dad, I arranged everything exactly as I did you wanted it. "

In fact, the topic is very personal for me as the author of this text. We are hesitantly rummaging through my mother-in-law's closets at the moment. We are her three children and their relatives. My mother-in-law is still there, but only physically. She has lost her short-term memory, can hardly remember anything and will never be able to live alone again. Her little house has been vacant for over a year, it's time to sell it, but what do we do with her beloved paintings? Your book collection? Your photo albums? In 83 years she has accumulated cabinets full of memories. None of us have space to stow them in our home, but giving away or even throwing away our personal belongings seems unethical to us.

That this is a topic that affects almost everyone is shown by the fact that Amy Pickard has already organized hundreds of G2G parties and sold thousands of farewell binders in just a few years. Aside from law firms and financial advisors to consult on will matters, there are also a plethora of apps out there that try to help resolve the matter. They're called Cake, Grace, or Everplans, and they're not bad, but they all suffer from the same defensive stance: They're unsuccessful because we all don't want to concern ourselves with our mortality. "Talking about death won't kill you," says Amy Pickard, knowing that many are superstitious. She laughs because at the moment every second American has skeletons and Halloween decorations in front of the house entrance, "but nobody wants to be reminded of real death."

So maybe you have to look to Sweden for that. The Swedes even have a term for it: dostadning, "Mucking out before death." Stadning means tidying up, and do is death. The Swedish artist Margareta Magnusson, 83, has written a book about it, and in German the title is translated a little more gently than the English Mrs. Magnusson's art of arranging the last things in life. Magnusson says that it is part of Scandinavian culture to clean things up while you are still alive, to take care of everything and not to expect your descendants to do that. "If you think about what should stay one day, life is all right now," says Magnusson.

If that still doesn't make sense, we should remember Matthew Mellon: When the banker died unexpectedly this spring at the age of 54, he left an inheritance of millions, but a large part of it in cryptocurrency. He kept the key to it secret. Now his family doesn't know how to get there. It's about the little thing of $ 450 million.