Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Preparing for Death:
Pragmatic Concerns


In addition to preparing spiritually for death -- a lifelong endeavor covered elsewhere on this site -- you should also prepare in more material ways. Ensuring that your affairs are in order such that, when you die, your loved ones can carry on with as little disruption to their lives as possible is a great gift you can give to them. Don't wait until you are old or sick to do this! Do it now, no matter your age or health. Talk to your loved ones about their doing the same.

To ease your family through your eventually leaving them behind, create a "Death File" that includes information they need to as painlessly as possibly carry on without you, and information you want them to have to care for you while you're ill and dying. Get a fire-proof file box to keep this file in (consider putting the same information on a USB thumb drive as well), and let family members know where it is. Include the following in this "Death File":

Last Will and Testament

To make your will:
  • List your assets on a piece of paper, whether the assets consist of real property, personal property, or intellectual property. With regard to personal property, walk through your house and note heirlooms and various things you wish people to have after you die.

  • Determine to whom you want to leave each asset. For assets that are heirlooms or that have stories behind them, consider writing those stories down and including them in your Death File so that the assets' significance won't be lost with your death (e.g., "the silver dish once belonged to my great-Grandmother Caterina, who brought it from Italy when she immigrated").

  • Decide who will act as your Executor or Executrix (the person who will act as your representative in carrying out your wishes as expressed in your will). Choose an alternate Executor or Executrix in case your first choice is unable to perform those duties.

  • Write your will, either on your own (see or with the help of an attorney.

  • Get your will witnessed by two witnesses before a notary public.

  • Give a copy of your will to your attorney, consider registering it with your county's probate court, give copies to family members, etc. At a minimum, let family members know that a copy of your Last Will and Testament will be kept in your "Death File," and let them know where you'll be keeping this file.

Information For Family

Note any insurance you might have, and list beneficiaries and whom to contact to receive any renumeration.

Note all bank accounts (including online accounts such as PayPal, Venmo, etc.) and safe deposit box locations, and include all account information.

Note locations of any necessary keys.

Have a list of any passwords family members might need to know -- e.g., for online banking, to pay utility bills, to make car payments and mortgage payments, to deal with property taxes, to handle any websites or blogs you own, etc.

Have a list of utility and other accounts that need monthly attention (e.g., mortgage, rent, electricity, gas, water, sewer, phone, insurance, streaming services, etc.), and include: amounts typically owed each month for each, and also account numbers, phone numbers, addresses, and online passwords relevant to the utilities or businesses; etc.

Note what you want done with any social media accounts you may have. Include any necessary passwords if you want those accounts to continue without you or if you want those accounts used to make death announcements.

Note any pre-paid funeral arrangments you've made, burial plots already paid for, etc.

Note any care needed for pets and plants left behind, and whom you entrust with such care.

Note the location of things family tends to care about (e.g., family photographs, home movies, heirlooms, etc.).

With regard to heirlooms, as said above, write down any information that helps your family understand their provenance and history, where they came from, whom they came from, memories associated with them, reasons for their importance to you, etc.

Leave a note to remind family members to remove your name from your State's voter registration database after your death (check your registration here:

End of Life Care

Make an Advance Directive to ensure your wishes about your end of life care are clearly outlined (see Give a copy of your Advance Directive to your primary physician as well as including one in your "Death File." Don't forget to include in this directive the name of your parish and priest, and relevant contact information.

Include a note containing information that would help family members make your death as pleasant as possible for you. What do you want your deathbed to be like, if at all possible? What sorts of reading, spiritual helps, foods, drinks, music, fragrances, entertainments, visitors, services, etc., would you want available to you? What do you not want? Are there certain people you want to be notified of your illness? If so, include contact information.

Your Funeral and Wake

If you already have your funeral arranged and a burial plot purchased, write down all necessary information so your family can proceed according to your plans. Otherwise, answer these questions on a piece of paper:
  • Where and by whom do you want your funeral Mass said?

  • How do you want your body to be disposed?

  • If you'll be buried, what sort of casket do you want?

  • If you'll be cremated, what do you want done with your ashes? (Note that cremation is okay if it is not being done for non-Christian purposes. It is fine to be cremated to save your family money after you die. If you choose cremation, it should, ideally, follow your funeral Mass at which your intact body is present. After cremation, you should not have your ashes scattered or kept at someone's home; they should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium.)

  • Is there a funeral home you prefer or do you want a home funeral?

  • What do you want your funeral to be like?

  • Do you want flowers? If so, what kind? Do you want contributions to be made somewhere in lieu of or in addition to flowers?

  • Do you want to have funeral cards made? If so, what sort or message or image would you want them to have?

  • What do you want your wake to be like? Consider food, drinks, music, speakers, etc.

  • What do you want written on any tombstone or monument you have?

  • What do you want said in your obituary? Consider writing your own obituary and including it in your Death File.

  • Are there certain people you want to be notified personally of your death? If so, include relevant contact information.
  • Also very important: what would your family members want for you or for themselves at this time?


Include any letters you want to leave for family members to read after your death, including notes to be kept in envelopes and marked to be read at specific times, such as on various holidays (e.g., "To be read the Christmas after my death"; "To my husband on his birthday after my death," etc.). Consider making videos and other recordings for these purposes. One could get creative here and even leave gifts to be opened after death on certain dates, have parties arranged to be celebrated, etc.

Note where and when you want any memorial Masses offered.

Include in your file any genealogical information you have -- family trees, records, stories, etc. -- or note where any such information you have can be found.

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