I am somewhat of a control freak.
I am not about exerting control over other people, no. That will be witchcraft, and I am no witch.
The control I am referring to is control over my own life and what happens in it..or to it – whichever way you want to look at it.
I have been independent since as long as I can remember. I started living away from home right from when I was a year old and I was placed in a private foster home with Mrs Enid Hammond – a woman I still remember till this day as a very sweet old lady. I even still remember her address in Canvey Island, Essex. Anyway, it was not because I was abandoned or had family issues. But in those days, Nigerian families regularly and habitually had private arrangements with private foster parents or nannies with which they placed their kids – whilst they worked and studied in London. I still do not understand, however, why I was the only one of the two of us my parents had put into this arrangement……..
Anyway, before I digress too far. I lived with Mrs Hammond and her family for about 6 years only seeing my parents once a month. As a matter of fact, my memories of my childhood in England are more of my life with my nanny. On getting back to Nigeria in the 70s, I was shipped to boarding school in Ijebu Ode and after 1 year at Ogun Poly, Abeokuta, the only period I actually lived with my parents other than a couple of years completing primary school at Ibadan, I was off to Uni was also hundreds of miles away in Benin city, followed by the compulsory National Service at UCH Ibadan. After that, I returned home for about a couple of years while I worked at OGTV and taught in AGGS, both in Abeokuta before I jetted back to the UK.
Getting married was easy, However, I found that for the greater part of my married life, I was no different than a single woman with kids who just happened to have a ring on her finger. I more or less brought up my kids by myself and I have been divorced and officially single for almost 15 years! That is a long time to be in complete control of ones life!
However, this piece is not about my life or marriage. I had to draw this picture of my journey so my readers will understand how I came to be a fiercely independent control freak. I had been used to being mostly by myself, doing things by myself and making decisions about my life for myself with very little if any assistance – except God and the government and very occasionally other kind individuals.
I find myself wondering sometimes that if I died, would I be able to tell people what to do with “me”? who to call, where to find documents, how to unlock my computer or my phone in order to find phone numbers for my friends, or where to bury me, what funeral rites to give me, my preferred songs and hymns? etc
It is not that one is not aware that once you are dead, that is it. You no longer belong in this world and you will no longer be involved in anything going on down here. But the control freak in me still cannot help but wonder.
And this is why I am writing this article this morning. Many of us are so used to doing things a certain way but we forget to put our affairs in order in case of that unpredictable certainty. We will all die someday, only we do not know when. This is one thing we do not have any say in or any control over. And that includes me, the fiercely independent control freak.
Shocking that even in this day and age, many people still superstitiously believe that writing a will is tempting fate. Less than 1% of men over 50 have a will. Even those with multiple households and relations.
And this is why it is highly vital to make plans and arrangements in preparation for that eventuality. Let your kids and appointed trustees know exactly what you want. And do not leave this till you are struck down with some terminal disease like cancer. People seem to just be slumping and dying everywhere today – and it is not just the old or seemingly unhealthy people. Fitness freaks are slumping and dying in the gym!
Make funeral plans and be specific about the type of burial you want i.e cremation, burial or being thrown into the sea. If cremation, let your trustees know where you want your ashes scattered. If you are a practising Christian but came from a Muslim, sango, babalawo, or egungun background or family, be very clear about how you want to be buried – as a Christian or Moslem.
Also, do not be afraid to make a last testament and will. My own family is currently embroiled in a tussle about my father’s property. In his later life, my dad took in a woman my mum’s age who came with 8 kids from 3 different men. Some of her kids were my age – married with kids and they all moved into my dad’s house with the woman’s aged mother. 18 years after my dad’s passing, the 2 kids the woman “allegedly” had for my dad are trying to enforce the sale of my dad’s house and claiming an equal share each of the proceeds with my 2 siblings and my mum. This is a house my dad built with his wife, my mum when these girls mother was still with her own first husband and never even knew of my dad’s existence.
Anyway, with foresight, my dad who lived over 10 years in the UK could have prevented all this mess if he had drawn up a legally binding will and testament and made his plans known.
My family is not unique in this kind of a mess. Many families find themselves fighting and warring over not just the deceased’s properties. Issues also arise if no one is sure of the deceased’s religious leanings or preferred burial rites. We also hear so much of Nigerian bankers, in particular, getting rich and fat from the vast amount of funds left in accounts of people who died but no one came forward to claim the money either because they had no account access details or were simply unaware of the existence of such accounts.
It is no longer taboo to talk about death.
As a matter of fact, you will be doing your kids a lot of good and favour by having regular meetings with them to talk about these things. Then no relative, uncle, alleged siblings or even inlaw (yes!) can come up with some crazy idea or alleged will that the kids were totally unaware of. There are many insurance policies today other than life insurance that can cater for your funeral arrangements when your time comes. Your family will have enough stress and pain to cope with without the added hassle of arranging your funeral or some crazy uncle to deal with as well.
And if you are living in the diaspora but you are one of those who insist on being buried back home – do think of moving back home NOW that you are still alive! Because it is expensive enough organising a massive burial back home, but your body also needs to be repatriated and this alone can cost anything from £10 – £15,000! So unless you have a way already planned to cover this expense, do spare your children this burden.
In these days that no one knows just what is around the corner, everyone needs to plan – for everything. And it does not matter whether you are 45 or 95.
Don’t leave it too late. Have that talk with your kids as soon as possible.