And no, I’m not talking about the end of the world.
I’m talking about your end. My end. The end. You know, dying. Because it happens — and although not a comfortable subject, its best to be prepared, right?
Before the boy was a year old, we had a standard (statutory) will and health directive with power of attorney in place. We should go to a lawyer and get a detailed, iron-clad will drawn up, but for now, at least we have an official, legal document outlining our wishes. (If you live in California, go here for a statutory will and here for an advance health-care directive.)
For us, the point of the will and advance-care directive was our kids: Who will take care of them? After about two seconds, we agreed that should the worst happen, the kids will live with the Rock Stars of their world: Grandma and Grandpa. And if the Rock Stars are unavailable (knock wood), the children will live with the Super Rock Star of their world: Their uncle. All assets go to the kids 50-50, and will be held in trust by the guardian until they reach 18 years old.
I only hope your choice is as obvious.
As soon as I found out I was pregnant the first time, I raised our life insurance to the maximum allowable. We probably need more — it seems you always do — but at least its there.
As for the rest, of which there are lots, the Hubbs (TH) and I (SM) had an e-mail conversation the other day. I swear, he’s the only person who can make me laugh and cry at the same time. Excerpts of our e-mails are below and edited slightly for privacy:
TH: Here’s a quick rundown of what I would want when I pass. Of course, my opinion on all this could change as the years go on but at least this gives you something to work off of.
Mourn me, but go on and live your life as fully and happily as possible even if I meet a slow, horrible end. You have the green light to date, party, get a pixie cut and dye it neon pink … whatever. If it makes you happy go for it. Start wearing hats. It’s not like I’ll be around to make fun of how small they all look on your head. All I wanted while I was alive was for you to be happy so why the heck would I want you to suffer with a dark cloud over your head for the rest of your life once I’m dead? You were a happy woman when we met, you’ve mostly been a happy woman since we’ve been together and I’d want you to go on as a happy woman once I’m reduced to looking like the contents of an ash tray.
SM: Wow honey. Only you can make me laugh and cry at the same time.
I’ll try. Ditto for you. Move on when you’re ready and don’t feel guilty about it. Just don’t shack up with some floozy who wears leopard-print pants. I can’t stand leopard-print pants on grown women. Also, I want you to treat yourself after I’m gone. Go to more baseball games. Be a season ticket holder again. Laugh lots, because you’re cutest when you laugh and your eyes crinkle in the corners.
TH: (ed note: This is where I lost it.) Tell the kids I loved’em with all my heart, every moment of my life from the time I heard we were having them to the day I died. Tell’em to go on with their lives too. Tell’em that we’re all human and I was sorry for any mistakes/arguments I ever had with them and that I forgave them for anything they ever did to me along those lines. Tell’em not to spend a moment feeling guilty about or regretting anything difficult in our relationships and to embrace the good times and the unconditional love we had for each other. Let’em know that they were always among the best parts of my life, right up there with you, baseball, good whiskey, beef jerky, pepperoni pizza and the action films of Patrick Swayze. I’m not too sure how I would feel about either one of them getting a pixie cut and dying it neon pink but they can do whatever they want to. I’ll be dead and it’s not like I’ll be around to give them any crap for it anyway.
SM: You know I will. Tell them I loved them from the second I knew I was pregnant. That I lived for their smiles and laughter. That I made them ridiculous sandwiches with no crusts and occasionally cut into cutesy shapes. That I overdressed them when it was cold, because I didn’t want them to get sick. That I’d dance like a complete idiot to Halloween music in the middle of Trader Joes just to make them laugh.
That I loved them unconditionally and that wherever I am, I still do. That nothing can ever change that. That I love them for who they are, exactly as they are, and that they’re perfect.
I’d like Sean to have my engagement ring. Maybe someday he can have it reset and give it to the girl he loves. I’d also like him to have the jade you got me on our honeymoon. I’d like Allie to have my wedding ring, my heart-shaped jade, and the gold piece from our wedding. Fates willing, their kids can have their choosing of the rest of my jewelry.
TH: Cremation. I want the shake n’ bake treatment when life finally punches my ticket and kicks me off this big, spinning rock we call earth. I’d like my remains to come back to the house with you and then eventually I’d like the two of us to be thrown into a plot somewhere. Maybe we can work this out as the years go on.
SM: Then I’ll go with cremation too. That way there’s no chance of me coming back as a zombie. (You knew I had to put that in.) And I’d like to stay with you as well. We’ll figure out a place.
TH: Post-death stuff. Make it a celebration. I’d like there to be some kind of party with friends and loved ones where people can smile and laugh and give you and the kids some support in a time of grief and let you recall the good times and the life and humor that was in me. You don’t have to shell out big buck for this (please, don’t do that). Maybe just a modest reception at our place/the kids’ house/etc. Make sure there’s free booze. Buy the good stuff since it’s the last time you’ll probably ever have to buy hard liquor since I’m dead and I won’t be swilling copious amounts of the stuff anymore. Maybe set up some sort of display/s with some pictures of me/us/the kids in better times. Feel free to throw in some silly stuff too. If you ever get pictures of me as a kid throw those in the mix too. I’m sure people would be amused to see that I didn’t just spring from the earth as an overgrown sarcastic, surly goofball.
SM: OK. As for me … do something. A party, a celebration. Lots of pics. Whatever you guys need/feel is appropriate. Surround yourselves with family and friends.
TH: Before I go: I guess maybe we should work out a formal DNR. I think I’d rather move on to the afterlife rather than have the chance of being revived into an existence as a glorified veggie platter. I love a good sugar snap pea but I don’t want to live like one and I don’t want you and the kids to be saddled with that.
SM: I don’t want to be a vegetable either. But I’m not sure how I feel about the DNR. For now, I definitely want you to crack my ribs trying. But that may change in 20-30 years.
TH: Ripley. I’m not sure what to do with her when I/we get near the end. I don’t see how any cemetery would take our remains with hers and that seems kind of nuts anyway. I don’t know where we would scatter her ashes since she was a house cat and I can’t really see burying her in the yard because most of the time she ended up out there as punishment. Plus, we won’t be in the house forever so eventually she’ll be stuck living with strangers for eternity. I can’t see passing her ashes on to our kids and their kids, etc. for an eternity but it would break my heart to leave this unresolved and end up having someone throw her remains in the garbage at the end of an estate sale. We should figure this one out. Maybe in our golden years we can sneak into the garden at (a park) and scatter her ashes when no one is around.
SM: I think she’d like the pond at (a park). There are ducks and she loved watching birds.
I still feel like we’re not “prepared”, but then again — can you ever be?