Just In Case: help­ing peo­ple pre­pare for death or ill­ness

Moose Jaw Express.com - - News - Matthew Gourlie -- Moose Jaw Ex­press

Harold Em­pey was sent home from the hos­pi­tal and told to be­gin to make fu­neral ar­range­ments -- twice.

“I guess nei­ther the Lord nor the devil wanted me yet,” Em­pey said.

Once his health scare had passed, Em­pey’s wife Betty won­dered what she would have done had he died. What Em­pey did was cre­ate a bin­der. It con­tained ev­ery­thing from his will to his bank­ing in­for­ma­tion to a con­tact list of friends and rel­a­tives -- any­thing needed to be or­ga­nized and help ease the bur­den af­ter a loved one dies. Now Em­pey trav­els ex­ten­sively do­ing pre­sen­ta­tions for his Just In Case binders, di­vided into sec­tions with tips on what im­por­tant doc­u­ments need to be col­lected and stored.

“It’s all about peace of mind,” Em­pey said.

When he started his bin­der af­ter his first car­diac ar­rest in 2004, they also be­gan a bin­der for his wife Betty. Be­fore she died from can­cer in 2012, Betty looked at the me­mo­rial card for her fu­neral and read her own obituary be­fore it was pub­lished.

“Af­ter she died, a friend came to me and asked to see (Betty’s bin­der) and said, ‘how did you do that so fast?’ I told him that it had al­ready been done. He asked to see it and I told him it was per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, but I said I would see what I could do for him. So, I went home and de­vel­oped Just In Case,” Em­pey said.

His own son died shortly af­ter his wife passed. See­ing the dif­fer­ence be­tween how pre­pared he had been com­pared to his daugh­ter-in-law helped mo­ti­vate him to help oth­ers pre­pare for se­ri­ous ill­ness or death. Em­pey notes that ev­ery­one is dif­fer­ent and fam­ily dy­nam­ics are dif­fer­ent. There’s no right way to go about pre­par­ing, but what he set out to do was have peo­ple know what ques­tions to ask, what de­ci­sions needed to be made and what in­for­ma­tion needs to be col­lected. “They’re re­luc­tant to start,” Em­pey said. “I say to them don’t try to do it all at once. And don’t do it in or­der. Just pick an area, make some notes, talk to your spouse or who­ever, and then go on to an­other sec­tion. You never, ever fin­ish. It’s an on­go­ing process and you con­tin­u­ally add to it.”

Em­pey has dis­trib­uted more than 13,000 binders and has been from On­tario to Bri­tish Columbia and every­where-in- be­tween to make pre­sen­ta­tions.

“I ship binders all over North Amer­ica,” he said. Em­pey isn’t mak­ing a dime from the sales of his binders. Af­ter his costs, he donates any prof­its to char­ity. To date he has do­nated $200,000, with much of that go­ing to the Sal­va­tion Army.

One of the sug­ges­tions he made at his pre­sen­ta­tion was be­queath­ing some money -- if a per­son was able -- to a child or rel­a­tive that were in their will while they were still alive. He re­counted how they gave some in­her­i­tance money to one of their chil­dren for a spe­cific project and were able to see the re­sults, while he and his wife were both still alive.

Em­pey said there is a wealth of in­for­ma­tion on­line, but to make sure that the in­for­ma­tion one re­ceives is Saskatchewan-spe­cific in­for­ma­tion. He added, fu­neral homes can also an­swer a lot of ques­tions. Em­pey said that ev­ery­one over 18 should have a will, also that “en­dur­ing power of at­tor­ney is the most im­por­tant doc­u­ment you will ever sign -- and the most dan­ger­ous.” Em­pey’s fi­nal two tips in the bin­der are to de-clut­ter and to learn what your part­ner takes care of in terms of run­ning the house­hold.

When it comes to de-clut­ter­ing, Em­pey’s be­lief in char­ity came to the fore­ground again. He gave away some of his fur­ni­ture and some china to fam­ily that had re­cently im­mi­grated to Canada.

“Your adult kids don’t want that stuff any­way,” he said. He also sug­gested that as you col­lect in­for­ma­tion in your bin­der, you also take time to tell your life story, as well as some of the sto­ries of your par­ents and grand­par­ents so there is a fam­ily his­tory to leave be­hind for chil­dren and grand­chil­dren.

The Just In Case bin­der grew out of ne­ces­sity but Em­pey couldn’t have imag­ine how it would grow once he be­gan the project. How­ever, he saw a need and is al­ways pleased to hear how it has helped peo­ple.

“It’s so re­ward­ing for me to have some­body phone,” Em­pey said. “About a year ago, my neigh­bour lady came over and she had been at a fu­neral in Cal­gary. This lady asked her if she, by chance, knew Harold Em­pey. She said she had the Just In Case book and she didn’t know what she would have done with­out it. That’s pretty re­ward­ing.”

Any­one in­ter­ested in a bin­der or more in­for­ma­tion, con­tact Harold at: h.em­pey@sask­tel.net.

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