Wondering what to buy your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day? What can you do that proves your love? Something that proves you care, something that says, ‘You are the most important person in my life. I couldn’t live without you. But just in case…’
No it’s not funny. Seriously, if you have anyone in your life that fits the bill – spouse, kids, friend, sister, father, (insert any other title here) – you need to read this.
Having recently, suddenly, and unexpectedly lost my happy, healthy, active husband, I am begging you, and anyone who will listen, to make sure your family will be okay without you.
Here’s a list of five things I know now that I’m beyond grateful we did then:
We had wills. After our first son was born, we went to a lawyer. We had matching wills drawn up, standard, generic documents, leaving ‘everything we owned’ to each other. Naming an executor and beneficiaries if we died together. And – truthfully, this should be law – naming a guardian for our son. The wills were worded so that they would include any future children, property, assets, and debts. That son was 18 when his dad died. The will stands. And it has been the single most important document of my life. Two half-hour visits, twenty years ago, $300. Without a shred of doubt, the best purchase we have ever made. Start bequeathing!
We bought life insurance. We took the mortgage insurance, the loan insurance, and enough term insurance to make sure that we would each be able to continue our lives with our kids as we always have. We never missed a payment – no matter what. With everything that happened that dreadful day, the slow-motion memories that constantly play through my mind, the only brightness I recall, was the looks of sheer relief on the faces of my mom, my sister, and my kids, when I was able to tell them, ‘Yes, dad is gone, but we’re going to be okay. We get to keep the house. We don’t have to move. You stay at the same schools, with the same jobs, and the same friends. We get to miss him without having to worry about what will happen to us.’ It’s something you couldn’t possibly understand until it’s too late. Make that call.
We talked to each other. About a lot of things – final wishes, organ donation, re-marrying. Most of the conversations were quite tongue-in-cheek; we made some entertaining threats, depending on the mood. The only thing we both agreed on, every time we joked, talked, considered, was that we would do whatever we thought best for the ourselves and the kids. This was crucial when I was faced with some of the hardest, fastest decisions I’ve ever had to make – many with the unexpected and adamant disapproval of other family members – without the one person I had always counted on most to help me get through the tough times. Start talking.
We were organized. At least our finances were, anyway. That’s not to say they were in great shape – we have five kids! That’s to say that all of our bank statements, bills, taxes, mortgage updates, insurance policies, wills, marriage certificate (!!!), passports, ID, health cards, and employee numbers were handy and available at all times. Same with passwords for voicemail, bank accounts, debit and credit cards, employee portals, email. Even the passcodes for his phone and computer. Write it down, lock it up, keep it handy.
We left nothing unsaid. The last morning of his life, Paul left the house grumbling at everyone – the younger kids were all off school that day, and he, the teacher, wasn’t – we teased him, laughed because he’d cut himself shaving, the son who attended the same school wasn’t ready yet, still in bed, ignored the repeated calls of ‘time to go.’ My final ‘have a good day’ was mocking with sarcasm. Two hours later, he was dead. There were so many people who expressed such regrets at not having called him back, or made time for coffee, or answered that email, or, or, or… I told them all the same thing I told my kids. When dad left for school that morning, no one was dying. We can’t live every day as if it’s our last – only people who are dying do that. Living is enjoying life without the cloud of death hanging over you. We knew he loved us. He knew we loved him. Period. That’s how we lived – every day. Everything else is just a part of a regular day in the life of a typical happy family. Stop worrying.
Nobody wants to talk about this stuff. No one wants to admit they’re mortal. No one wants to envision their own demise. But ignoring the fact that you will die one day will not prevent that destiny. And the only people who will pay for your sticking your head in the sand and hoping for the best are your kids. Your loved ones. They will pay and pay and pay – at a time when the last thing they need are more worries and problems. Prepare now. Put your affairs in order. Six hours. Two weeks. Tweek the budget just a bit. It’s the best investment you will ever make.
Then you can enjoy your Valentine’s Day with chocolates and champagne knowing that if the worst does happen, you’ve given your loved ones everything they need to carry on without you.