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Monday, November 21, 2011

How To Face Death - Part 3

This section has proven a little more difficult; I suppose because it is a bit more emotionally charged than the others. Some of the things I'm suggesting may seem a bit out there, but if the worst was to happen (whether it is at the age of 25 or 65) I believe the benefits to those you leave behind just can't be measured.

7) In Isaac's closet right now I have 12, custom-designed, Tom James suits; each one embroidered with "MAO". I have no idea if they will ever fit Isaac; and if they do if he would ever have any interest in wearing them. What I do know is they were some of Matt's very favorite things in the world. The night I met Matt some friends and I were picking him up to take him to an after party; it was easily 2 in the morning. When we came to pick him up, he was up in his room trying on these suits, picking one out for the party. I'll never forget that night, beside other obvious reasons, it was the first glimpse I had into the love-affair he had with his suits. Given any chance to wear one of these suits, he always did. So, where am I going? Although, I'll always keep one for memories, and there is a chance Isaac could want these, they take up a lot of space (seriously, a lot). Not only do they take up a lot of space, but I wonder if there is someone out there that needs a suit to get a job, or keep a job? Could they go to someone who needs them more? They were also extremely expensive. Could I sell them, and instead of handing the suits down to Isaac, could I be building up his college fund? This is just an example, of course. It was only one of the many decisions on possessions I had to make (and continue to have to make). I don't expect anyone to go through everything they own and decide what would go and what would stay if they were to die. What I would suggest is if there is something that you know you want to stay with your spouse and children - let them know, this way they can feel freedom in making the other decisions with the best of their ability.

Matt in one of his shiny suits at a Governor's dinner we attended ...

8) What would you like your family to have? Each family member deserves [and will want] something to have that would be a piece of you. Your parents, siblings, nieces, nephews. This could be something small, or something that reminds you of your childhood together. I would suggest naming something for each family member. Not only does it take away a tough decision for the spouse in your passing, but it will be a comfort for your family to know it was the thing you wanted them to have.

9) If you were to both pass in an accident together who would you want to take your children? Beside identifying this person, it is important to ask the person you have in mind if that is something they would be willing to do for you.

10) This will be my last piece of advice in this series, and although I imagine readers will have mixed feelings in making the decision to do this, it is the one thing I wish more than anything I had for my kids. Have you ever went back to watch your home videos from the year prior? How often do you actually see yourself in these videos? So often, us parents are the ones taking the videos, or would rather not be seen in them at all. I wish I had something to show Evelyn and Isaac that was just their father - something that captured his voice ... his tone ... his mannerisms ... his humor. I challenge each of you to take your home video camera into your bedrooms and make a video for your children. Include your favorite memory, hopes you have for them, games you played together, and anything else that seems appropriate. No need to start the video with a, "If you are watching this ...". No need to re-watch it, or edit it, or share it with anyone. Just talk, just be you. Place the memory card in an envelope, and put it away. It would take 5 minutes, but the price of something like that could not be measured. Even if you were to live to be 90, a video like this could be a place of immense comfort and great treasure for those who love you. For some reason I think this song helps capture what I'm suggesting ... The Words I Would Say

To end this series I'm going to show you a video of Matt. It is the one video that I have been able to find of him, and just him. Although it is hilarious, and does capture his humor a bit, it leaves a little to be desired in regards to capturing his 'legacy'. I watch it over and over now, wishing it were longer. He took this video after getting a new web camera, he was so proud, and sent this clip off to show off his new toy.

Down By The Bay

Thursday, November 17, 2011

How to Face Death - Part 2

A few more thoughts on how to prepare for the unexpected. You can read my first blog post on this series here.

3) Do you want to be buried or cremated? It's sometimes hard to remember life before Matt died, but I *think* I assumed he wanted to be buried. At least, that assumption is what made me decide to bury him. However, I don't know that with any certainty. From what I have gathered, cremation is becoming a more popular choice in the past few years. Cremation is better for the environment, leaving less chemicals behind for decomposition (which are mostly found in the casket and vault), and taking up less space on our planet. Cremation can also be cheaper. The thought of being cremated versus decomposing is an issue for some people, and so that makes cremation or burial a subject worth thinking on and discussing.

4) If you choose to be buried, do you know where you would like to be buried? If you are a young couple, and home is a new city you've only lived in a few years maybe being buried there is not ideal for you. Maybe you really don't care, and if you don't - great, tell your spouse that. This idea must be discussed for cremation as well. If you are to be cremated, what you like your spouse to do with the remains? Keep them displayed in your home? For how long? Do you want them spread somewhere? Where?

5) This may seem like a silly one, but I have lived through the fear of walking into a casket room. Others I know have shared similar stories, so I feel the need to share with you. If you will be buried, your spouse must enter a room filled with caskets ... some small, some big, some comfy, some fancy, some oak, some metal ... they must pick the place you will rest forever in the ground. Although it sounds dramatic, the weight of this choice is nothing less than that when brought into that room. Your heart desires to give your spouse the best, but the difference between 'the best' and 'a box', when it comes to caskets, is literally thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, I imagine funeral homes are aware of this tension, and likely make money off of this very thing. Please, give your spouse the okay to bury you in a cheap casket, with a vault that has a sub par seal on it. You will not know what you are laid to rest in, no one at the funeral will notice the hardware of your casket, and your children will have extra money for college. For those of you who are would like to be cremated, and your remains kept, you will need to answer this question as well (because you can be placed in a tiny wooden box or fancy gem encrusted vase ... they put these in the same room as the caskets).


I didn't plan this list out prior to writing it, which means, I don't know how long this series will go on for. I can think of at least 3 more topics I would like to touch on before I'm done with this little series. I will put all of the topics in a listed format, easier for discussing, when I'm at the end. Grace and Peace.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How To Face Death - Part 1

This is a post I've pondered writing for some time. I recall many times in Matt and I's journey swiftly thinking on the 'what ifs'. What if I were to die, what if he were to die, what if we were both to die? Were we prepared? Did we have a savings? Life Insurance? Plans for the children?

The subject was hard, and Matt proudly lived life one day at a time (with a hint of invincibility showing right under the surface). He didn't want to think about the 'what ifs'. "That would never happen to us," he would say. It was only last January I finally talked him in to signing up for life insurance through my company. The plan started on March 1; Matt died on February 5; I assume they would have figured out another reason to deny me, had it not been those 25 days.

So there I was the night of his death, without one moment to discuss anything with him. He lay with emergency workers surrounding him, and unbeknown to me I was about to make 100s of decisions for him over just the next 7 days alone, and I did not have one concrete answer. How stupid of us. With the help of his parents, my parents, my church, our friends, his siblings, and my own deep understanding of Matt we all made it through. I am fine. But oh, how I wish those decisions could have been easier. Oh, how I wish this grief journey could have been less stressful on me, and subsequently on his children.

So, I have decided to give a little martial advice; "Uh-oh" I can hear the people say :). I am going to go over some topics throughout my next few posts that I would encourage all married couples, especially those with young children, to discuss. I know it is not fun. It can be emotional. It is also responsible, respectful, and deserving of your time and energy to do so. My suggestion is to make a written list of these decisions, and to review and update them every year.

Today, I'll start with two easy ones . . .

1) Prepare yourself with life insurance. I know it is a pain. The physicals, the investigations, the questionnaires, etc. Imagine though, if your spouse could spend the first year of their life as a widow/er doing what they should be, grieving you. Instead of, let's say, buying and selling a home. Selling your property, to make ends meet. This one should be a given in most homes, and I hope that at least half of my readers already have this one accomplished.

2) In which situations would you like your children to see you before you die? If you end up on life support, breathing but not conscious, would you want your children to be able to see you. To say goodbye? This was something I struggled with. My heart wanted Evelyn to be there, but most thought it was probably not wise. I trusted them, and I still do, but I don't know what Matt would have wanted for Evelyn. There are lots of other scenarios besides this one, but it comes down to whether or not you would want your children to see you still alive, but not as your true self, in order for them to say goodbye.

I will continue to add to this post throughout the month. God bless each of you. Thank you for continuing down this path with me. Love to you all!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I'm sorry I couldn't have done more.

It became clear early on in therapy that there were far more haunting events in my past besides just the singular day of Matt's death. Tragic events that I held so close to my soul I was simple unable to identify truth from lies. Which is why when I started therapy after last February we didn't jump directly into the day he died. Maybe because it was still too soon, or maybe because my other wounds needed attention first. However, when the season of firsts hit earlier this fall it was obvious it was time to set aside the work I was doing, and focus on Matt's death in regards to how I had planted this date in my mind's eye. I would have never known the weight I was wearing had it not been for my therapy. And so I share this in hopes that someone else can identify with the weight I was unknowingly carrying upon my shoulders. That someone else can be assured that your loved one knows you did all you could.

I'm sorry I didn't save you.

I know that I did everything I could. Matt did not seem to have anything more than a common cold when he went to bed that Friday. He was not showing signs, or complaining about difficulty breathing. When he arose, and could not breath, I called 911. When the operator told me to give him breaths, I did. When instructed to stand aside, I did. I called on God to save him. I averted Evelyn's eyes so that she could not see. I contacted his family so they were able to all be there to say good-bye. I made the right decisions about organ donation, and when to pull the breathing machine. I made sure he was prayed over. I did the best I could on that terrible day.

I wish I could have stopped death from coming.

I know that it wasn't my fault. I know in a rational tangible way, but I found out this week my soul didn't agree. I found out this week that what I needed was Matt to reassure me that he knew. In other moments, while re-living past experiences, I have seen the face of Jesus. I have forgiven others. I have forgiven myself. It was Matt that I needed this time. I envisioned him standing in that bathroom, the place which he had collapsed. I saw him putting his arms around me tightly. I saw him reach his big hands to my face, look in my eyes, and say, "You did everything you could to save me. I know this. I love you."

But death won that day.

See, none of this would be so terrible if it didn't affect every other aspect of my healing. I am new this week. I am lighter. I can imagine what it was like to be in Matt's presence again. Not Matt who is lying almost dead on a hospital bed. Matt who flew around our home with lightening speed, spouting ridiculous jokes, and singing so terribly out of tune. My thoughts of him are no longer overshadowed with guilt, and before this week I hadn't even known they were.

Death will not win forever.