The Greatest Gift

The Greatest Gift

My aunt passed away after a short illness. She had a large extended family, but no children or spouse to handle her affairs. I knew ahead of time that I was her chosen power of attorney for health care and for her finances as well as the administrator of her will. What I didn’t know ahead of time was the gift that she had already given me.

Aunt Mert was the most private of people. She was very upset that in order to have me listed as her POA, her lawyer insisted that she let me know that I was being given that job. She was not the type of woman to have a discussion about what she wanted to happen “when that time comes”.

When I received the call that Aunt Mert was incapacitated and that I, as her power of attorney for health care, needed to make some decisions, my heart skipped a beat…and another as I realized that not only her life, but her quality of life, was now in my hands. What did she want? Did I have the knowledge and strength to make the decisions that needed to be made?

As I read back over the document she had prepared, I realized that while we had not discussed in great detail what her desires were, the short conversation we had along with the decisions noted on the form were enough for me to make sure the life she had left was lived according to her wishes…and her death was according to those wishes, too. The decisions made were not mine, they were hers carried out by me. I did ultimately have to make the detailed decisions in the moment, but with the information held in the power of attorney paperwork as well as within our relationship, I know those decisions were the right ones.

Had she not given me the pathway to follow – the paperwork, the brief discussion, the trust – Aunt Mert may have been subject to more medical intervention than she wanted to have, to a lesser quality of life after intervention, to a death on someone else’s terms. Health decisions could have been left to a court-appointed guardian – maybe someone outside of our family.

As I went home the evening that she passed away, I thought about the love and the gifts she had given me through the years. I realized, at that moment, the most important gift of all was that she gave me the tools and the trust to carry out her wishes.

The question I often ask my friends and family now is whether they have given their family those same gifts. Have you?

Power of attorney paperwork for Wisconsin can be found at:

Power of attorney paperwork for Michigan can be found at: