My Dad’s To-Do List for When He Dies

We’re not ready to think about it

Brad Snyder
Human Parts
Published in
7 min readFeb 5, 2024


Father & Son. Image courtesy of author.

My father removes the stapled sheets of paper from his back pocket. He points at the kitchen table. It’s his signal to my sister and me to have a seat.

“I need ten minutes,” he says. “I have to talk to you about something.”

Our minds leap to worst-case scenarios. “Are you okay?” Jennifer asks.

“Yes,” he says. “I’m fine, but…” His voice trails off.

He unfolds the document — at least six pages thick — as if he’s about to read a speech.

On the paper are bank account numbers, insurance policy details, and directions for his burial, which will be at a veteran’s cemetery on Long Island, given his Vietnam-era National Guard service.

It also contains the location of the police precinct where, after his death, we will need to turn in the handgun that he’s retained after three decades of work as a parole officer.

“Dad, are you sick?” I ask.

My father’s eyes turn glassy. “I’m not,” he says. He chokes up for a moment.

“It’s just I’m not going to live forever.”

Dad’s been talking more about his mortality since the car accident. Two years ago, a car raced away from an undercover cop…