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What must you do before you die?

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About Us - Dr Colin Dicks

Dr. Colin Dicks

MBChB, FRANZCR, MBA, MSc Palliative Medicine.
April 22, 2022

When death is approaching there are many things that need to be done. The euphemism of “getting your affairs in order” does not do justice to the magnitude of the task ahead. While these are all discussed in the book, “Death, Dying and Donuts” and on the website, there are some important things to point out.

The first is that dying is more often a marathon than a race. Being enthusiastic about getting your affairs in order and setting off at a cracking pace is not sustainable. While it may be possible to tick off the big-ticket items such as wills and testaments, advanced directives and not- for- resuscitation orders, funeral planning, and palliative care referrals, this is only the beginning. Once these have been done, death does not pull up at the driveway and invite you to come along. The bumpy road at the end of life includes the need for stamina. There are ever increasing medical appointments, little things to do, readjustment of daily tasks all in the setting of deteriorating health. Everyone gets fatigued on the “care journey” at the end of life. Emotions and feelings can become explosive. Knowing that that you must be in there for the long haul is important.

The second thing is don’t procrastinate. The clock is ticking and very minute is precious. What you don’t do today has to happen tomorrow and with deteriorating health, the tomorrow’s become increasingly difficult. The marathon ends in a steep uphill and if you have many things to do at the most difficult time, they are simply not going to happen. If you are planning a holiday do it sooner, If you are planning an overseas trip , go before you are not able to. Make the most of today.

There are five important people to speak to. Often, we have the best intentions to do this but we may never seem to get there. Don’t try and figure it out, just pick up the phone today and do it! Make an appointment and these people will help you sort things out. It’s what they do. These people are:

  • A lawyer for help with wills, testaments, enduring power of attorney
  • A palliative care physician for help with advanced directives, not for resuscitation orders and a game plan for the road ahead
  • A financial planner to ensure that your assets are in safe hands
  • A funeral director – do this early when death is not so close- it is easier to do this from a distance
  • A spiritual leader – Ask questions about God, there can never be a better time than this.

There are three essential fun things to do before you die

  • Have a party:  plan a big event where you get to celebrate your life with the people you love. It’s no good waiting for your funeral because you won’t be there.
  • Do a photo shoot; make sure there is one good photo of you and make sure it is done professionally. Believe me, this will be worth gold.
  • Do something that you have always wanted to do, even if it seems outrageous- if it is not criminally outrageous. This is the time in life where you may get to be a little irresponsible. You cannot take your money with you so why not spend a little on your dreams. It may be as excessive as booking a once in a lifetime trip into space, or it may be a luxurious splurge at a 6-star resort and at a top restaurant. It may be an adventure such as hot-air- ballooning or swimming with the whales, or it may simply be a mellow picnic with the ones you love. Make sure to make time to have fun.

And finally, there are three personal things that you should consider before you die. They involve no one else, they are your tasks and your mission alone. 

  • Forgive – as far as possible forgive those who have harmed you and forgive yourself for the things you have done that have not been kind
  • Ask for forgiveness where it needed and don’t leave unpaid debts as far as possible
  • Give, it does not have to be financial- give something of yourself without expecting anything back- giving is good for you.
  • Make peace with God

Why not tell us about your plans, adventures, journeys and the things on your “list of things to do before I die”?  Please share these or any questions you may have at

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