EVENT SUMMARY: FORUM

The following article summarizes the original event which is listed below the summary.

Preparing for death

Tue, January 23 2024, 11am
 

Many of us remember Pat Miles from her days as a WCCO and KARE TV anchor on the evening news. At UMRA’s January 2024 forum, she shared her personal experience after her husband Charles “Bucky” Zimmerman was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He had been healthy and seemed destined for a long life. But their plans for retirement were shattered. 

“We thought we were set for life,” Miles recalled. “As it turned out, we were not set for death.” She experienced “overwhelming grief, followed by overwhelming problems.” 

Pat and Bucky had a will and trust, but she found there was much she didn’t know about their finances. With no trusted advisors, she relied on people whose interests—she eventually realized—were not aligned with hers. Living through the fog of grief, it was difficult for her to retain information or make decisions. Seemingly little things, like utility bills, became complicated when her name was not on them.

“I looked and acted like I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t,” she told us.

After the first year, Miles reached out to other widows and then wrote a book about the commonalities and lessons she found in their experiences. During our forum, she shared some of the practical advice she gained in the process, like taking someone with you—someone you trust—to important meetings. 

Critical conversations

To prepare for death, she said, “Ask yourself, Who knows what I know? And if no one else knows, take action. Deal with the impending practicalities when days are good, and your family is around. Preparing for death has made me less afraid.”

Pat Miles’ book—Before All is Said and Done: Practical advice on living and dying well—is available in bookstores and on Amazon. I recommend it and urge you to have these critical conversations with the loved ones in your life, no matter how difficult. 

—Julie Sweitzer, UMRA president-elect and Program Committee chair

Event recording
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FORUM

Planning for the (un)expected end

Tue, January 23 2024, 11am
Pat Miles
Author and former news anchor and journalist
WCCO TV and KARE TV

Location
Event to be held via Zoom.
 
 

One of the most uncomfortable conversations for many couples is “what happens when one of us is gone?” We know it is inevitable. But we hope it is far off and tend to avoid any planning. Especially if finances are satisfactory, we may postpone exploring what might change when there is only one of us left. 

But time isn’t always on our side. In 2015, I got a visit at work from the University of Minnesota police who came to tell me that my husband had died while working on our new lake cabin. Not what I expected that day. 

For Pat Miles, former TV news anchor and journalist, it was an unexpected health diagnosis for her husband and a relatively short period until he died. There are probably multiple versions of this experience among UMRA members. Grief, telling family and friends, and making funeral arrangements are among the immediate challenges.

Reality sets in

Then reality sets in. Pat Miles thought “their affairs were in order.” After all, they had a will and were in the early stages of a planned retirement. Instead, she ran into multiple legal and financial challenges made all the more traumatic by her deep grief. Being a journalist, she eventually interviewed other widows who had similar experiences, as well as professionals from many fields who contributed their expertise. 

The result is her book Before All is Said and Done: Practical Advice on Living and Dying Well, available in bookstores and on Amazon (including Kindle). While my experience was not so difficult, her advice rings true to me. 

Please register and join us via Zoom at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, January 23, for our first forum of the New Year to hear Pat Miles share her personal story and the practical advice she gathered through her reporting. I hope it will prompt you to have a conversation, or two. 

—Julie Sweitzer, UMRA president-elect and Program Committee chair



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