Mind Body & Health
Where There's a Will
A practical guide to taking charge of your affairs. 'Compelling,' Dying Matters.
May 2012, £9.99
'Kerrigan's tone is carefully balanced and the writing is compelling. He urges us to seize the day before it seizes us,' Dying Matters Coalition
Published to coincide with Dying Matters Awareness Week
Death is inevitable: we are all destined to shuffle off this mortal coil, kick the bucket, cease to be (even if some, to challenge the old cliché, dodge the taxman). Yet many of us choose to face an inescapable mortality with heads firmly stuck in the sand.
But is ignorance really bliss? Perhaps if we prepare ourselves thoughtfully for death – whether our own or a loved one’s – and take charge of our own affairs, we will be able to rest easier as the fat lady begins her final chorus?
Just as we embrace change in life, so must we in the way we die and how we mourn and memorialise. Medical life-support technologies; blended families; generational conflict; secularised rite-of-passage ceremonies; labyrinthine loans, pensions and saving schemes; online activities from our social lives to mundane tasks; increasing concerns about our impact on the planet... Dying, mourning and their aftermath can be a whole lot of grief.
Where There’s a Will guides you with a refreshing lightness of touch through all the emotional, financial, legal and practical issues that you need to consider. With a combination of constructive tips and thoughtful reflections on dying, death and bereavement, this book throws light on subjects that all too often remain taboo.
"Where There's a Will aims to address our cultural and social reluctance to talk about and plan for our deaths by guiding us gently through some of the innumerable issues it encompasses. As author Michael Kerrigan says in the preface, no book could cover death in all its guises, and Where There’s a Will doesn’t try. Instead, it seeks to "acknowledge the myriad possibilities of mortality while at the same time trying to point out the common ground". This common ground includes end-of-life wishes, funerals, organ donation, wills and the increasingly pressing problem of what happens to your digital persona when you die.
"While the book is billed as a 'practical guide to taking charge of your affairs', the focus is not entirely pragmatic, with passages on giving comfort to the dying and making sense of a death. It could be a dry read, it should be a depressing read, but it's not, peppered, as it is, with colourful anecdotes and intimate personal stories, famous quotes and poetry, and historical and cultural accounts of death. Among these are tales of those who have had the peculiar experience of reading their own obituaries; John Cleese's legendary eulogy at fellow Python Graham Chapman's memorial service; and a poem written by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
"This is very much a book for the lay public rather than the 'death academia ' or professionals, although both have significantly contributed. Throughout, whether discussing agnosticism in relation to the afterlife or tackling the thorny subject of assisted dying, Kerrigan's tone is carefully neutral and balanced. He doesn't seek to challenge our beliefs about death, rather to chivy us into considering it, full stop.
"Where There's a Will aims to rob death of its 'destructive force' by helping us prepare for it thoughtfully, by facing it calmly and by carefully taking charge of our affairs. And it's when Kerrigan is urging us to seize the day before it seizes us that he is at his most compelling.
"He writes: "For many, death’s cruellest torments are those arising from the helpless realisation that their personal and financial affairs are in disarray. That they’re departing life too late to take meaningful action, leaving their loved ones to deal not just with heartbreak, but with a major headache.
' "We can make that task easy for them, or we can leave them with a tangled confusion to try to unravel, with all the distress (and perhaps the tension and bitterness) that this may entail.'
"While a supposition early on in the book that "few of us really want to die. In fact, in an ideal world, we’d live forever, if we had any say in the matter" is questionable (just 15% of people said they wanted to live forever in a Dying Matters poll last year; moreover, would anyone over the age of, say, 14, actually want to?), Kerrigan's dedication to improving our lot at the end of life isn't." DYING MATTERS COALITION, MAY 2012
"As a nation, we seldom speak about death, we don't even like to use the word, and have developed cosy euphemisms to cover our unease, and yet, with an ever aging population, the need for an instruction manual on how to cope with the reality of death is an invaluable asset. This practical guide to putting your affairs in order is both informative and fascinating in equal measure. It attempts to cover all aspects of the dying process in an easy to read style, and is neither mawkish, nor sensationalist in the way it sets out the practicalities of death and dying. The chapters are divided into structured settings, and cover such diverse topics as, the instructional etiquette involved in having your name removed from social media websites and the closing down of online bank accounts, through to the music you want at your funeral and the inscription on your memorial headstone. For those who may be facing their own death, and who need to know the practicalities of the dying process, this book informs in a sensible and forthright manner. Likewise, middle aged children, who may have no experience of the dying process, and who, when faced with the loss of a beloved parent, may struggle to cope with the myriad of emotions involved in preparing a funeral.
"The answers to so many questions you never knew you needed to know are all written somewhere in this informative book. I enjoyed reading it, and would recommend it as a practical and helpful guide." - Jaffareadstoo Book blogger
"In the words of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Death is not the end. Well it is for the person who has died, but for those left behind it can be the beginning of an organisational nightmare. In comes Where there is a Will by Michael Kerrigan.
"This may appear an unlikely book to buy, but it a useful bible. This is up to date with Do not resuscitate orders and end of life liverpool care pathways, it give yu insight into where you can scatter ashes to having an eco funeral.
"It may appear morbid but it helps with everyday issues such as managing online passwords and the modern way of living together but the pitfalls of not having a will.
This book is tongue in cheek at times and at the same time is easy to read.
"Even if the reader thinks they have everything in hand when they go to their maker - there are a few surprises that may not have been taken into account." Brownie, 'Real Reader'
For those who entered the Dying Matters Coalition competition, use the button below to buy the book for £6.50 plus P&P (UK postage only)