For advance planning consultant Amy Pickard, music is a matter of life and death
Good to Go! Departure File and booklets
Dayton, Ohio native Amy Pickard produced a music video show there on public access television from ages 16 to 23, and got to interview the likes of Billy Bragg and her favorite band Squeeze since “no one else did anything like that in Ohio,” she says modestly.
But the long Los Angeles-based Pickard parlayed her rock experience into producing the 2006 rockumentary Glenn Tilbrook: One for the Road—The story of One Man, Two Guitars ande an RV! and is still active in music, currently helping promote ex-Black Crowes Rich Robinson’s acoustic East Coast tour. But most of her energy now is devoted to what she calls “my death business.”
“I used to be the ‘rock girl’ and now I‘m the ‘death girl!’” says Pickard, who is now 50. “I want to combine both!” she adds, and while she jokingly refers to her work, she readily concedes that it’s really no laughing matter.
“My death business is called ‘Good To Go!’ (G2G!) and I started it after my mom died--and then my granny dying,” Pickard says, stating Good to Go!’s goal: “I want to make the aftermath of death easier for people.”
Actually, the lifelong “music freak” credits music with getting her through the deaths of her entire family during the four years starting with her mother’s death in 2012, and her grandmother’s terminal illness.
“My mother died unexpectedly and left behind no paperwork that might help me take care of the hundreds of details that were left to me the day she died,” recounts Pickard.
“On Sunday, she was here and on Monday she was not. In the midst of shock and grief, I was forced not only to deal with the intensity of my DNA leaving the planet, but I had to become a detective and administrator in order to eliminate her ‘paper presence’ on Earth. What bills needed paying? Did she have online accounts and what were the passwords? What happens to her bank account? What did she want me to do with her personal belongings? Her laptop? Her photos?”
Her mother’s estate took a year-and-a-half to close, “and when she died I had to take care of her mom—my granny—in a nursing home in Dayton. She died in 2013, and there were issues with her will and it took almost two years to close her estate, and I got immersed in elder care--which is soul-destroying. Dealing with all the death duties with Mom and Granny inspired me to create Good To Go!”
Good To Go!, then, is an unconventional advance planning company that helps guide people through their end-of-life paperwork. Pickard created it to empower people to take control of a subject that many shy away from: advance planning for health care and death care.
“I’m not a doctor or lawyer--just someone who has lived through loss,” she continues. “I wanted to help alleviate some of the uncertainty that arrives in the aftermath of death, and when I realized that there wasn’t an instruction manual on how to get through it all, I decided to write one! The Good To Go! paperwork eliminates stress, guilt and doubt, and provides those you leave behind with the certainty of knowing they are carrying out your wishes while leaving you the assurance that everything will be just as you would like it.”
Morbid as it may sound, though, the Good To Go! approach is as unexpectedly relaxed and fun as its name suggests—as also is its creator.
“I’m trying to make death more accessible,” says Pickard, who has devised an advance planning program that pretty much covers everything a will doesn’t cover, i.e., the necessary logistics and other crucial information for loved ones left behind.
The 50-page G2G! Advance Death Care Directive (“I call it The Cosmic Instruction Manual!”) is contained in G3G!’s Departure File package—a folder that also has room for other important personal papers. A “Departure File Checklist” suggests including Will and Living Will, Trust and Life Insurance Policy information, and legal documents concerning Power of Attorney, Healthcare Power of Attorney, Guardianship, etc.
Pickard says it’s “the most comprehensive, thoughtful document you will see relating to death preparedness, and will provide your loved ones with the rock-solid guidance they will desperately need when you are gone or if something happens to you in an emergency.”
Additionally, a second, shorter companion booklet is available and geared specifically for music creators. It addresses recording, publishing and management contracts; insurance information and additional paperwork pertaining to equipment and instruments; and other necessary documentation regarding songs and music, online sales, performing rights, personal belongings and legacy.
“Musician need both books,” says Pickard, who also advises all her clients (a member of the National Home Funeral Alliance and a certified volunteer with The Twilight Brigade end-of-life care independent agency within Veterans Administration hospitals and hospice care facilities, she also provides personal and corporate consultation) to get a Will/Trust and Living Will, which in addition to G2G!, are all that’s needed, she says, to complete advance planning.
She notes, however, that a G2G! directive is not legally binding—“but anything in writing is better than nothing in writing,” and that if it’s signed and dated, “it should be considered morally binding.” She encourages users to feel free to add extra pages to the existing booklet if needed, and when completed, inform loved ones of its existence and location “so they will know that you’re ‘good to go!’”
After conceiving the idea for Good To Go!, Pickard became motivated after sharing it with her friends Pete Thomas (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer for Elvis Costello) and his wife Judy.
“I had been wanting to get musicians Good To Go! as a way of giving back for all that music has given me, and I asked Pete, ‘If something happened to you, what would Juju do about your royalties, etc.?’ He paused and said, ‘All I know, Amy, is that the checks arrive and I kind of give all the information to Juju.’ So I got on it ASAP! But the importance of advance planning has really been underscored by Prince and Aretha, who died without wills—though Aretha apparently decided to write her own in a spiral notebook and shove it under a couch cushion!”
Pickard checked with the musicians’ union and found that it didn’t do anything regarding advance planning.
“I talked to road crew friends, and they said, ‘Are you kidding me? We don’t get anything other than one page about workers’ compensation.’ So I knew there was a need for working musician friends who aren’t Bono-level to talk about the questions no one even asks about, like, ‘Who knows the passwords to your online merchandise accounts like CD Baby? What do you want done with your vinyl collection and rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia and items of sentimental value? Does anyone owe you money? Do you owe any money? How do you feel about appearing in holograms? About your music being used by politicians?’ The whole purpose is basically to eliminate any potential guilt or uncertainty among your survivors regarding your death.”
Pickard spent a year writing the G2G! booklets, following the motto “Leave behind love not logistics! Celebrate living by planning for dying!”
“I’m trying to bring a little levity to a very heavy subject,” she says. “But there’s really nothing to be afraid of, and once people overcome their initial hesitation, they discover a process that helps them learn more than they ever thought possible about themselves and their loved ones—that isn’t at all depressing.”
Rather, Pickard has made the Good To Go! approach an actual fun-filled party where “the subject is the life you lead and how you want that life expressed when you die.”
“I travel all across America hosting G2G! parties, and my dream is to get a sponsor so I can travel around in an RV or camper van and get people Good To Go!,” she says, characterizing such gatherings as “Death Tupperware Parties” or “Fete du Mort” celebrations that can be held at home or anywhere else where close friends and family can get together, each guest bringing a dish based upon a favorite recipe passed down from a departed loved one.
“I love baking my mom’s or granny’s recipes, as it makes me feel closer to them,” says Pickard. “If you can’t cook or bake, you can bring a dish that was inspired by a loved one, and of course, recipes from loved ones who are still with us are also perfectly acceptable.”
BYOB is also mandated—but it doesn’t have to be beer.
“I joke that if we have to talk about the hard stuff, we need to drink the hard stuff!” says Pickard. “But I’ve also hosted alcohol-free Good To Go! parties, because at G2G!, we respect everyone’s journey. It’s basically bring your own everything, anyway, so the host doesn’t feel overwhelmed: A potluck dish and an adult beverage. Food and booze—and you have to have a sense of humor.”
Pickard then adds music to the humor.
“I have a Spotify death-themed rock ‘n’ roll party soundtrack to guide people through the Good To Go! Departure File. It’s on the landing page of my website and has songs like ‘Rock and Roll Heaven’ by the Righteous Brothers, Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,’ Norman Greenbaum’s ‘Spirit in the Sky’ and Ralph Stanley’s ‘O Death.’ I’m trying to make death more accessible: I’ve had elderly and terminally ill clients, but I’m trying to get people while they’re young and healthy, using pop culture—which is my background.”
And filling out the paperwork in a party atmosphere is preferable to “wearing a suit and feeling super-heavy when you walk into an intimidating office,” notes Pickard, who relates that her father had a G2G! party when he was 71, a year before he died unexpectedly.
“He did everything,” she says. “He even wrote his own obit and completed the Good to Go! booklet. I’m so grateful we had the conversation while he was still young and healthy. It gave him the peace to transition knowing that everything was taken care of and we could focus on love--because that’s all that matters.”
The alternative, Pickard cautions, is having to confront these end-of-life issues for the first time in an emergency situation in a hospital, “when you least expect it and under traumatic circumstances. I try to get people ahead of time, so they don’t waste brain space and energy when they need it most to focus on when they die. The parties, which usually last up to three hours, offer a stress-free environment, and after breaks for food, drink and hugs, attendees leave with a very specific idea of what information is needed should something happen to them—because you don’t know what can happen, or when.”
Pickard is now partnering with the Recording Academy’s MusiCares charity “to get music people G2G!,” she says. Meanwhile, she has a live show on the G2G! Facebook page, Grievers and Groovers, every Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET, “where we talk about death, grief, life, advance planning and rock ‘n’ roll—and get anywhere from 200-500 followers per show.”
Amy Pickard discusses Good to Go!