The people's voice of reason


Not to be confused with the South Korean movie “Two Weddings and a Funeral” or the British movie, “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, my real life January events had nothing to do with “hooking up” and instead I endured the most grievous and oft dreaded death of a parent, my Mom and only two days after her funeral my oldest son, Matt (not his actual name) returned to Montgomery and married his most precious and beautiful fiancé, Lisa (not her actual name). How often does one experience an emotional high following such a heartbreaking event?

My involvement in the affairs of my grandparents following their deaths was one more as a laborer to help my parents with the physical assets in their homes. This time it was a parent and my siblings and I rallied to help our Dad as we endured the rather quick demise of our Mom and watched as Dad lost his wife of sixty-two years.

On a Saturday about noon, Mom fell at home and Dad had an ambulance take her to a local hospital in north Alabama. Having a lack of a neurosurgeon she was then taken to UAB. Her condition rapidly deteriorated and within a few hours we were notified that her injury had now resulted in what was probably an unrecoverable situation. In the wee hours of Sunday morning Dad and I checked into the attached hotel only to receive a call a few hours later that she was further declining. In the darkness of the room I relayed to Dad the grim news. They had given Mom a medicine to raise her cardiac output because nothing was in place for her wishes in this type situation. My Mom had not completed an Advance Directive (Living Will) but Dad knew the decisions he would have to make. I remember shaking as I relayed Dad’s wishes to the nurse that no heroic measures should be taken. She had been placed on a ventilator and an IV provided not only fluids but a port for other medicines to make her more comfortable. Before daylight on Sunday I went to sit by my Mom’s bedside followed by my Dad an hour or two later. My siblings arrived from out of town shortly thereafter to be with the very person that carried us for nine months and brought our lives into the world and to be there for Dad in whatever had to be done. While Mom’s vitals had been very low early that morning, she rallied that day and her vitals were very normal. While my brother kept watch over my Mom, Dad and I headed back that afternoon to our hometown so he could better pack a few things and we also called a local funeral home to begin the process of making arrangements. Even though we were told it is on an appointment basis the director was kind enough to wait until we got there late that afternoon. We returned to UAB late morning on Monday as my brother relayed to us that Mom’s rally seemed to be over and life indeed was slipping away. A UAB faculty palliative care physician came by to speak to us regarding Mom’s comfort and allowing Mom to transition to be with our Father in Heaven (my words not his). Early afternoon as palliative care was preparing to remove Mom from the ventilator she transitioned as the newest soprano into the Heavenly choir. A mere mortal seventy years in earthly church choirs was replaced by an eternal choir for which I am certain can never be surpassed. Can you imagine being in a choir with King David and praising God with a stronger voice than you ever had on earth?


(1) An Advance Directive would have been nice but fortunately we all understood the futility of Mom’s continuation of life and arrived at the same conclusion. I view Advance Directives a bit differently now; while I have known that withholding fluids and food amounts to starvation of sorts I had not appreciated that taking one off of a ventilator amounts to suffocation and of course we were not willing to allow that. The nurse told us that an anti-anxiety medicine is given frequently as the ventilator is removed so that the patient does not experience that sensation of suffocation. Continuous ventilator use does not keep one from dying and may result in pneumonia and/or lung infections after long-term use.

(2) Take care of funeral arrangements ahead of time because not only does the funeral home seek appointments but so does the cemetery. Even though my parents have plots purchased by my grandfather in 1970 you still have to pay for opening, closing, a vault and they have to survey the plots. Only after talking to the manager at the cemetery were we able to get one of their last “appointments” less than an hour after my Mom’s death after I explained my Dad would have to come back to the Birmingham cemetery. Regardless of the appointment rule the counselor was INCREDIBLY helpful and compassionate in our time of need.

(3) I do not anticipate probate of my Mom’s estate as all of my Mom’s assets also seem to be in my Dad’s name. It will be a different story after my Dad is gone. Look for random insurance policies and carefully read the paperwork as some are paid directly to you or if not needed immediately may be rolled over to an instrument for you but with new beneficiaries. I have suggested that my Dad consider a new Will since for instance my Mom was his primary beneficiary, named as primary Personal Representative and some family additions and subtractions have occurred since the last Will was prepared.

(4) While I have greatly appreciated my friends that have offered words of sympathy, I have learned that only those that have lost at least one parent can offer real empathetic support.

Two days after my Mom’s funeral we celebrated the union of my son, Matt (not his name) and his fiancé Lisa (not her name). A beautiful photo of my Mom was prominently displayed at the wedding since my Mom had planned to be there. The tears that day were those of joy. Just as I became Dad to Matt thirty years ago in place of his mostly absent father so did Matt become Dad to a sweet little girl whose father has not been a part of her life. Matt and I had a prior discussion more than a year earlier as he considered the same scenario that I had so many years before.

Final Observations:

(1) Young newlyweds that do not have many assets generally have no reason to consider a prenuptial agreement.

(2) The newlyweds should consider proper estate planning documents.

(3) Depending on the exact situation Matt and Lisa may consider adoption as a choice for his wife’s daughter. Should Lisa suffer an untimely demise, Matt would have no parental rights unless he is allowed by Lisa to adopt her daughter.

This article is informative only and not meant to be all inclusive. Additionally this article does not serve as legal advice to the reader and does not constitute an attorney- client relationship. The reader should seek counsel from their attorney should any questions exist.

"No representation is made that the quality of legal services performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers."

Mailing address: Ronald A. Holtsford, Esq. • Ronald A. Holtsford, LLC

7956 Vaughn Road, Box #124 • Montgomery, AL 36116

(334) 220-3700 •


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