Sunday, May 26, 2019

Coping by example ...

The list of widows is a mile long.

In my family, it was almost always the women who survived. It was my mother, Grandma, Aunt Max, Aunt Flava, Aunt Ida, Aunt Elsie, Cousin Mary, and on the short list of men, Uncle Gottleib and Cousin Bill.

How did all these people cope? My mother had children still at home. She and my aunt both worked. That would occupy their days at least.

But grandma and the aunts were all homebound and were part of the generation that didn't drive. What were their options? I wish now that I could pick their brains. How did they survive -- not just financially and physically, but more importantly, emotionally?

The first two weeks after I became a widow, my children and cousins were visiting, keeping me company and providing a distraction. The next month was tied up in paperwork -- closing accounts, transferring assets, filing death certificates, talking to accountants and lawyers.

I went online and looked up life actuary tables and survival rates for spouses after one died. FYI, widows have a higher death rate within the first 3 years. After that, the average lifespan is another 15 years, give or take a few years.

Confirming this is the double funeral the family had, when Aunt Rita died three days after Uncle Bob. They had been married forever and Uncle Bob did everything for her.

When Steve was alive, we were always planning to get the wills updated and check beneficiaries on this or that. Like most people, it was all still on the to-do list when we needed it.

Ordering my own house -- writing the will, the living will and defining beneficiaries -- became my next objective. I want it to be easier for the kids when I go, whether that is next week or 10-20 years away.

I'm not being macabre with all the death discussion, but I want to be prepared for the inevitable outcome. My Aunt Ida was in a nursing home the latter part of her life and she had everything planned, right down to the songs they would sing at her funeral, the Bible verses they would read, and which dress she would wear in the coffin.

And yes, I will admit, I do look forward to seeing Steve again. It's not that I want to go right now (or next week), but I miss him. Tear time.

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