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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The business of dying...

There is a lot to be done after one dies, lots of loose ends to tie up, lots of people to call.The insurance company, the mortgage company, the banks, the lawyers, social security, pension companies, and on and on…it seems to never end.

On my way home from work the other day I was driving down Highway 46- the same route we came home from vacation after he died and a memory flashed through my mind.

The morning after he died my aunt was driving us home and the organ donation lady called. I never knew what went into organ donation or how involved it is. It was probably the most surreal and ridiculous conversation I’ve ever had, and even more so because my husband had only been dead for a few short hours. After discussing which parts of my husband’s body they would likely “harvest”- an interesting choice of words, I thought, she had to ask me a litany of questions that seemed bizarre at the time. (Had he ever engaged in homosexual sex, slept with anyone from a certain region in Africa, or slept with anyone else who might have slept with someone from a certain region in Africa, had he ever used IV drugs, was he HIV positive, etc.) I remember when she asked me if he had ever engaged in homosexual sex I sarcastically retorted, “I think he’d rather be where he is right now than do that.” Then the gravity of the situation hit me again and I realized I was talking about my dead husband- I felt guilty for making light of it. The topic of conversation was too heavy to handle at the moment…

I just received a draft version of my will and advanced directive in the mail from my estate attorney. I have to review it and make sure that I made all the right decisions about what goes where, and who gets my kids, and how my money will be handled if I die. We should have done this before Andie died but of course we thought we had more time. It’s utterly depressing to think about your own mortality especially when the wound of grief is so fresh and you don’t have the “if this should ever happen to us” buffer that most of us carry with us when we’re young. I guess we never got around to doing it because the thought of tragedy was too heavy to handle at the time…

The hardest part is trying to decide what to put on his gravestone. I mean, how do you reduce a person to just a few words on a gravestone? I’m writing a letter to the girls about him and it is already 5 typed pages long. How do I condense all that into something meaningful and true and honest? I’m just not sure that anything I put on there will really do him justice, because he is after all, so much more than what a few words can convey.

It weighs heavy on my mind these days,

this business of dying...


  1. Wow Brooke... You really have SO much weighing on your mind. And I absolutely think that if you feel like writing a 300-page book to those girls, then you do it. They will cherish every inch of memory you can provide to them about their daddy.

    PS- He would have laughed at what you said to the organ donor lady. :)


  2. It is bizarre that I came across your blog tonight. You see, today I finally finished the design for my husband's headstone. He died fifteen months ago. Designing the headstone has been absolutely one of the most difficult tasks that I've had to complete along this grief journey. What words can one say? It has terrified me thinking I'd mess it up somehow - and it's permanent! But it finally came together in its own time. Sadly, it makes his death a terrible reality. It forces me to have to face the fact that our relationship is now over. I want to move on, but the feelings are still there hanging on...missing him.

    In the beginning, I thought the constant overload of paperwork and legal forms would never end, but it does. (Well, at least it slows down to a trickle.)In the beginning I thought I'd never smile again, let alone laugh. But I can smile now. I can laugh again.

    Don't rush anything. Take your time. It's your grief. This business of dying really stinks!!!!

  3. Brooke,
    I agree with Anonymous about taking time to decide about the headstone. You don't have to do that right now and you certainly aren't going forget to get it done. The treasure you are writing for the girls is where all the wonderful details are going to go.
    We put a special phrase on one family members headstone, and each time I see it, a ton of memories pour into my head. The phrase only covered one tiny aspect of that person's life, but the "domino effect" of inter-connected events, comments,sayings,& pictures rush forward.
    Someday, the words in your blog are also going to be treasures for your girls - to let them see how important an avenue of expression is when they deal with their own grief in later years.
    Much love to you