We don’t like to talk about death. It’s gross. It’s weird. It makes everyone uncomfortable. Shhhh…don’t make everyone uncomfortable, we’re trying to have a nice dinner here. Besides, you’re not going to die, right? I mean, by the time you get old, there will be SCIENCE to keep you alive FOREVER. Yes, you are sure of that.
I hate to tell you, my friend…you are wrong. You are doing to die. Your parents are going to die. Your lover is going to die. Your kids are going to die (maybe before you!). Your friends are going to die. Everyone you have ever known and loved will die. Hope your morning is going well! What a swell day!!!
Tim and I had the kind of relationship in which we could talk about ANYTHING. We talked about it all: spirituality, our beliefs around death and dying and what happens after, politics, bodily functions, sex, emotions, random passing thoughts, boring mundane shit, everything.
We knew one another through and through. And trust me, if you knew Tim you know we was a COMPLICATED man. That brain. Holy shit there was a lot in there.
So when we sat in that cramped conference room on the 15th floor of Tisch NYU and the Neurologist looked at me and asked “What are your and Tim’s spiritual beliefs? What do you believe happens after death?” I KNEW the answer. Because we had talked about it countless times in the 12 beautiful years we shared. And because I knew HIM.
So on May 21st 2017, when he had his MRI, when we found out his cortex was damaged beyond repair, when we found out that he would only live in a vegetative state, I knew what he wanted. He wanted to die.
At 33 years old. I made the decision to take my beloved off of life support and watch him slowly die. And I don’t regret it. Because I knew him.
Losing Tim and navigating this messy, confusing, emotionally shattering walk of widowhood has taught me a lot about the logistics of death. Tim didn’t have a Will because he wasn’t going to die young. Other people do that. And he didn’t have anyone listed as a beneficiary to any of his accounts because, again, 34 year olds don’t die of heart attacks. That just doesn’t happen. So in the weeks following Tim’s death, instead of curling up in a ball and letting my community care for me, I got to work. Because it was my only choice.
Life Insurance: Tim had it. I have no fucking clue what I would be doing now without it. He had his company policy as well as an additional policy he purchased on top of it. It’s enough to ensure that my kids will always have food and their basic material needs met. I wish we had more, but it’s more than many end up with, so I’ll take it. If you don’t have life insurance GET IT. NOW. ESPECIALLY if you have kids. Get more than you think you’ll need. Just do it already.
Accounts: Several years ago I had taken over our finances. Because I was just better at managing our money and Tim was better at making the money, so it worked out. That meant that, after Tim died, I knew what accounts he had. I knew who we owed what and how to pay them. I knew what accounts to close and what should remain open. I knew the passwords and log-in information. I would have been completely screwed without this knowledge. Write down your account information, your passwords, the companies you owe money to every month and how much you pay them. Stick it in the back of your desk or safe and tell your partner/kids/parents/trusted friend where it is.
Medical and End of Life Care: As Tim’s wife, I was automatically responsible for making medical decisions for him. He was unconscious (and basically brain dead, turns out) so he was not legally able to make decisions for himself. Know your partner. If you are not married, set up medical proxy so that they can make decisions for you if you want them too. Get a Living Will if you do not wish to receive unnecessary medical care. Most importantly- TALK TO YOUR LOVED ONES ABOUT YOUR WISHES. Talk about what you want in the case of a medical emergency. Talk to them about what you are willing to live with and what you are not willing to live with. Talk to them about organ and tissue donation. Talk to them about what you want after death, look into your options and price them out. If you live in a state with Right-To-Die laws, talk about that too. Write down your desires and plans so that there will not be any question if your time comes to lie unconscious in a hospital bed. You own your life. You might be able to own your death.
Final Will and Testament: If you don’t have one already, get on that. We thought we had time. We didn’t feel like spending the money. We were wrong. You might be too. Having a Will will make the death logistics all the easier for your loved ones. And your wishes will be know. You can get one online in about 30 minutes. It’s well worth your time.
Funeral Arrangements: Tim and I never really talked about exactly what he wanted to be done with his body or how he wanted his life memorialized. I did know that being embalmed was not something he was into, and that he favored creation or green burial. I also knew that he wanted people to have a party, not a funeral, after he died. So I had him cremated. And we threw him a party. A big one, with music and dancing and food and pictures and stories. And then I had another party for him. And I’m planning another. Because that man LOVED A PARTY. So he gets as many parties as I can manage. Turns out, cremation and celebrations of life are a LOT less expensive then the traditional funeral route, so that’s nice too. You don’t have to do what we did for Tim, you can do whatever you want. But you need to tell people what you want. In detail. Write it down with everything listed above.
So I know what everyone is doing this weekend, right? You are doing to invite your loved ones over for dinner, get the wine flowing, and drop a super heavy conversation about death on that. Scratch that, it doesn’t have to be heavy. You can have fun with it. Have everyone share their thoughts, tell the whole group what you want. You won’t regret it.
And if you do, hey, you’ll be dead.