Friday, March 11, 2011

(We think we know that life can change in an instant. For the Japanese people whose lives shook violently in the 8.9 magnitude earthquake this morning that change happened. For them and their families around the world we extend our sorrow and support. Through death, through trauma, through lives changed forever there will be grief. There will also be stories. Tales of heroism, personal tragedy, and, in the best sense of the word, community. There will be instant reminders for those who know Haiti, Indonesia, Katrina, Wildfires, 9-11, and countless other instances that change lives and the world. There will be seconds when we think we are glad that someone we know doesn’t have to hear of this tragedy, because they are gone, but we are here. And the grief that we feel for ourselves will be extended to the people we do not know by name. This morning I take just a moment of silence to reflect on that I can be thankful for no changes today.)

There is a quiet that has come over the house now. Stable. Routine – the new normal.

I almost had two full days without tears! Until last night when Dave made his way to his office downstairs to email his colleague some student evaluations. Even though we are on a network I couldn’t talk the laptop into seeing the other computers. Dave was so frustrated as I tried to fix the network, he just had to go downstairs himself. And he did. And came back up. More easily than the last adventure for the family meeting.  There is a slight improvement in his strength relative to the past couple of weeks. Can he still be in recovery mode from the Tarceva incident? That’s awesome.

Home Office

If these walls could talk… Dave’s home office.

There were a couple of poignant moments yesterday. One occurred when I was in the family room and I had a sudden fleeting flash of being alone, as in widowed.  The emptiness of the house overwhelmed me momentarily. The second time was when I was in Dave’s office, “study” he usually call it. The wall-to-wall bookshelves enclose his world of ruminations, reading, research, tapping at the keyboard like a mad scientist testing a new formula. There is never enough shelf space. Incoming books lay flat on the ledge of shelves; mementos and gifts and occasional photos are little shrines to memories; audio tapes and cds hold the tunes of bluegrass mostly, some country, blues, and maybe a bit of old time rock and roll; VHS tapes and DVDs await the classroom film day. His desk is piled with papers in a system he knows exactly, but to me a mess that needing clean-up. (I should talk! I am a stacker, too. However, I don’t claim to know what is in each pile.) Two old arm lights flank his workspace that would cast a backlight on him whenever I would plop into the wing back chair for advice, to share what I was doing or have the “what do you want for dinner / what do we have” discussion. He is a simple man with simple needs, but oh, so smart.

When we were back in his study together last night, my tears just fell out silently as he tapped away on the computer. He cursed at the fingers that didn’t hit the keys quite right at first. 1,034 emails since his last log-on. Thousands of students over 45 years of teaching. The well of tears just swept over me. They were as much an expression of joy to have him in his office as an expression of sorrow for the completion of his academic career.

Follow up

The call to the funeral home was easy once I purged my long description of dread. It was very business-like, almost too business-like. In this case I don’t even need to know more than their phone number once Dave dies. Just call them and they’ll pick him up. However, I will go ahead and make the arrangements. Pre-planning will make this part of the journey easier for everyone when the time arrives. We’ll want to be able to concentrate on our love rather than worry about the decisions surrounding procedures of death. This is part of “getting the affairs in order.” I’ve always told Dave he needs to write his own obituary! I suspect we’ll be doing this together actually. He has mentioned the obit to me recently. I wasn’t ready to talk about it at the time.

In other business matters I am back on track for getting us set up for retirement. There are a lot of legal things to review, and I need a Power of Attorney for authorization to access Dave’s accounts and make decisions on his behalf. Our retirement agent sent their own POA form along with authorization from Dave. It needs a notary seal to complete. Who makes house calls on these matters?  I know about these things but sometimes the use and need just doesn’t soak in until I walk through the experience.

This was the impetus to finally call our lawyer. She was able to call up the paperwork quickly. Yes, your Durable Power of Attorney goes into effect for financial transactions. I could use this (according to our retirement forms) in place of their company form. If need be, she would come by and witness Dave’s signature.

We are prepared, again. How fortunate. I remember when we first met with Jessica, our lawyer,  and the difficult discussion it seemed at the time. Nobody seems to want to talk about their death even when there are no threats. Maybe, especially when there is no threat.  I knew she would make sure we are properly protected. She gently reviewed what we have in place and their use. Here are the estate planning* elements we put into effect a few years back:

  • Durable Power of Attorney. Covers financial and related estate decisions on behalf the person who is unable. I just need to include a copy for our retirement.
  • Medical Power of Attorney. In case of partner’s inability to act on own behalf such as unconsciousness or coma.
  • Health Directives, aka Living Will. Should be on file with the medical records. Ours have not been, just held for use in our personal files. When Group Health came in for going on hospice that was one of the first things that needed to be on file. The alternate form, and in use for Dave, is the POLST.
  • Last Will and Testament (or Revocable Trust in some situations) which, of course, settles the estate holdings and tangibles directly to the intended recipient.

Seeing all these papers again in light of our situation now  is a relief that we are covered. I can’t help but think that if we were to have experienced a sudden death of either of us that we would be even better protected. We made clear decisions then that are relevant now.  I know I will need to review my papers later, but if something came along and swept me away tomorrow, I can feel secure that my affairs are in order. Thanks, Jessica!


* For informational illustration only. Estate planning varies for individual circumstances. Please consult a competent professional to determine the best protection for you and your family.

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