I Almost Died That Day
The idea was to rent an AirBnB in Washington for six months until I found a house to buy. I scored with a pet friendly home right on the water in Shelter Bay, a small coastal community in La Conner.
My host, Annie, is delightful and lives just a few streets over. She and her husband are in their early 60’s, and while they love Shelter Bay, they plan to move when they retire, seeking a more… vibrant community. While not officially a retirement community, it has the vibe.
Oh, okay, I’ll just say it! It’s like heaven’s waiting room. They even have a street they call “widow’s lane.” It’s sad, but…true.
Several of my neighbors are well into their 90’s and still driving, watering plants, and one guy even works on his own roof. Let’s just say I am on the younger end of the spectrum, even at 45 years old.
Which is why what happened on August 27 really caught me, and my neighbors, by surprise. No one expected the ambulance to be for me. Why not for Fred? That guy is 97 and still climbing ladders. But as fate would have it, it was my turn for my very first ambulance ride.
I knew something was off, even the day before. I had cleared my schedule to geek out on a certification class for my favorite day planner (Yes, I am THAT big of a nerd). But I couldn’t get into it. I had a pain in my leg, my brain was foggy, and I just felt…agitated.
By the time I called 911 sitting at my desk on Saturday morning, I could barely breathe. Those little lights you see just before you pass out were swirling as I nearly lost consciousness a few times. Being home alone that weekend, had I passed out, I’d likely be dead now.
Something kept me awake and aware.
It’s weird the things you think about in these situations. I knew I had to get my dogs locked up because I didn’t want any harm to come to them as EMT’s made entry. My dogs are lovers, but these guys wouldn’t know that. I also knew I needed to unlock the front door so they didn’t mess up Annie’s door.
And then I also felt some disappointment…
If this was to be the end, please don’t let me die at my desk.
Come on, man.
Contrary to what most people I’ve discussed this with want, I don’t want to die in my sleep or quietly at home. And no matter how much I love my work, I certainly don’t want to die doing it at my desk.
No, I’d rather have a tragic mishap while adventuring, reading, or even eating. Let me choke on a street taco in a foreign land, or get mauled by a rabid bald eagle while hiking some beautiful mountain. Not just simply falling asleep and never waking up again.
And, I totally reserve the right to change my mind on this when the time comes (I’m talking to you, big ‘G’).
Through some divine synchronicity, I was taken to the right hospital, at the right time. The first responders weren’t sure exactly what was going on, but they made a call, and it happened to be the right one, for which I will always be grateful.
The emergency room doctor recognized almost immediately that I was experiencing symptoms of a pulmonary embolism (PE). They ran the tests, made the consults, and diagnosed an acute saddle pulmonary embolism. The “widow maker.”
Well, I thought, at least I live in the right neighborhood for it.
A cardiac interventionalist was on staff and able to assemble his team to “suck” the big blood clot out of my lungs within a couple hours. Then I got to spend a week in ICU as my body began to heal, and begin breaking down the remaining clots in my lungs and legs.
I’ve often joked that I have two speeds- 100 mph and zero. Turns out, there’s a speed less than zero. I mean, nothing happened at the “Hotel La Intensive Care”. No reading. No calls. No certification classes. Just me, my thoughts, and healing.
Interestingly, I had recently picked up a new daily mantra that seemed to serve me even more perfectly as I lie in a hospital bed: “Every day, in every way, I get better, better, and better.”
I recited that to myself uncountable times during my six night, all-inclusive stay at Skagit Valley Hospital. And I got better.
There I was with my thoughts.
What if I had died?
My affairs are a total shitshow (is that one word or two???). Ironically, I released the latest (and final) episode of the Sign & Thrive podcast two days after “the event’, titled, “ Walking the Walk: Notaries, Time to Get Your Affairs in Order.”
I didn't have my affairs in order. In fact, we joke about it in the episode. I was behind in my paperwork and I promised to get her what she needed.
Life happened, no, death, almost happened.
And because I am such a Nerd-ary (Thanks Nicola at the NNA for that term), I also thought:
What Happens When a Notary Dies?
Whether we know it or not, we’re actually held to a pretty high standard of information privacy as a mobile notary and loan signing agent, thanks to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, state statutes, and through the Model Notary Act & Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility (and others) when we’re alive and functioning as a Notary. So what happens when we’re dearly departed?
Inquiring minds wanted to know, so I phoned a friend at the National Notary Association (NNA). Nicola Jackson, the Senior Manager of Training & Education, hooked me up with all kinds of insight on what is expected of the heirs of notaries.
Heirs of notaries have responsibilities???
Yeah, mind blown.
With help from Nicola and her team, we were able to create a document to help you figure out what’s expected of your survivors for your state. You can download a guide we aptly titled, “Death of a Notary” at the link below.
The team did its best to identify state-specific guidelines and expectations of the heirs or representatives of a deceased notary public. As usual, please verify with your own SOS or governing body for updates, etc. Also, we included a whole section about best practice, as quoted from the Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility and the Model Notary Act.
Some of these states ain’t playin.
Connecticut says, “As soon as possible after the death of a notary public, the notary’s personal representative shall destroy the notary’s official notarial seal, if any, and file a signed, written notice, with the secretary of the state, indicating that the notary public has died and the date of death”
Or how about California: Well, you can read that for yourself in the download!
A few states even have fines for the heirs of notaries that don’t comply. Most of us notaries don’t even know these laws and rules. How would our heirs?
And wouldn’t you believe it, there’s a solution to that too. In fact, it’s the only piece of my estate plan that was in place when my PE hit.
One place, cloud-based & secure, to keep all the information I would need to convey to my heirs.
In short, a legacy vault. My last gift to my family. Even though it wasn’t complete (and probably never will be), I had peace of mind when the end was near, that my family could find what they needed as they became my final closing agent.
You’ll be seeing a lot of My Life and Wishes’ Legacy Vault in the coming weeks, and years. The owner, Jon Braddock, is just as committed to protecting your legacy as I am.
Part of my realization through all this, is that all the wisdom in the world serves no one if it isn’t shared. It’s my wish that this story finds you at a time that serves you well.
While death isn’t always a pleasant or exciting conversation, planning for it ahead of time can lead to peace and integrity when you’re gone.
Peace be with you.
PS- I’d love to find a creative way to thank the first responders that helped save my life. Do you have any suggestions? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.
Bill Soroka is the founder of Notary Business Builder, an elite community of professional Notary entrepreneurs that are committed to building a successful business in any economy by leveraging authentic sharing technology and cultivating deeper relationships. He is also the best selling author of three books (and counting) designed to help notaries build their dream business.
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