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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Petty

Ep. 064 | End-of-Life Planning

Why You Should Do It Now, and How, with Michelle Mathai


Do you have a plan for when you die? Do you have a plan for when your loved ones die?

In 2001, Michelle Mathai was just two years into her first foreign service post as vice consul in Auckland, NZ. She and her parents were on a farewell trip around the island in anticipation of Michelle's imminent departure for a new post in El Salvador. In the blink of an eye, the trip turned tragic when their car, with her dad at the wheel and her mom in the back seat, careened off the road and into the mercilessly icy current of a glacial river.

As water rushed in, Michelle was able to kick out the windshield to escape the car, but her desperate attempts to save her parents were unsuccessful.

In this episode, Michelle shares how the complete lack of preparation for her parents' deaths impacted her and her brother. She shares how painful lessons learned from that experience helped her create a very different ending for her brother when he died in 2017 after almost a 20-year battle with brain cancer.

And she shares how to have the tough end-of-life conversations with our loved ones NOW--before end-of-life issues become a reality--and what exactly needs to be covered.

Some Highlights

  • The hardships that failure to have an end-of-life plan causes when a loved one dies, and the benefits of having a plan

  • How the grieving process is impacted by lack of end-of-life plans

  • How to create end-of-life plans with your loved ones

  • What an end-of-life plan contains

  • The value of simplifying your life materially so that there’s not so much stuff for loved ones to sort through when you die.

  • How beauty can be found in the “tough stuff”

  • Why Michelle has no tolerance for “all the bullshit” anymore--and why you shouldn't, either

Making It Matter In YOUR Life

Dying well starts now. It starts with acknowledging the inevitability of our death, allowing that awareness to keep us present in THIS moment, and taking concrete steps today to plan for our ultimate demise.

It requires making our Death part of our Life, here and now. It's a formidable and beastly tension to tangle with, but tangle with it we must if we are to depart this life with grace and peace.

As I've discovered in the three-plus years that I've been actively cultivating this Mortality Mindset, if we persist in tangling with this tension, it becomes a powerful catalyst for giving the things that matter most the attention they deserve NOW and living the life we were uniquely made to live. Paradoxically, it becomes a friend and ally rather than a detestable and repugnant enemy to be avoided at all costs. As my then-10-year-old son, Macgray, said one night at the dinner table, much to our surprise and amazement, "Death brings meaning to life." When we estrange ourselves from our Mortality, we estrange ourselves from our very Life.

And so we conclude where we began: Do you have a plan for when you die? Do you have a plan for when your loved ones die? If not, what's just one thing you're willing and able to do today to begin assembling a plan?

Remember: You ARE going to die. But you're not dead yet. So get after it!

Let Me Know!

What stuck with YOU from this episode? Message me on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn @AndrewPettyCoach, or email me at

Be sure to tune in to the next episode--a sort of mirror image of this episode. Terminal brain cancer warrior, Pam Blackburn, will offer her final word from the sacred space she now inhabits between life and death. It is both heartrending and intensely clarifying in the most useful of ways.

I’m so glad you tuned in today. Don’t forget to follow this show, and I’ll see you next time on Andrew Petty is Dying.

Let’s Connect

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If You Liked This Episode, I Think You’ll Like These, Too

New to Andrew Petty is Dying?

And if you're new to this show, welcome! I invite you to browse the archive of past interviews with fascinating people and short, topical solo episodes--all designed to equip you with the mindset and the means to become the person you were made to be and live the life you were made to live with guts, gusto, and abandon. We flip the script by inviting our ancient foe, Death, to become an unlikely ally in our heroic journey to leave it all out on the field of life. Turns out, Mortality might just be the best motivator available--blasting us out of our ambivalence and complacency and toward the fullness of our potential.

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