Dying and providing
I haven’t mentioned yet what I spent most of my time doing as I lay in the hospital bed, my last two weeks in hospital, thinking “this is it.” First, I phoned my older sister who is a professor and has no children of her own. She really helps others out a lot and I could see her as a surrogate parent for my children. I asked her to fly in from Toronto, and sit in my hospital room while I explained to my children the details of my will. I described in detail the various financial decisions that I had made since my divorce. I outlined property and investments, pension and life insurance. I had made a will, but since I was planning to marry, on death’s door or not, I needed to make a new will. I know a lot of friends my age who have not gone through all these details and organized them. Fortunately for me, I considered this my main task after divorce, and long before I became ill.
I considered being fully responsible for my children and paying for their university education a priority – my first priority after their general health and well being. I was extremely happy that I had already made these arrangements for my children and they were somewhat surprised that I had thought through the details and was not leaving them in the lurch. I felt it was important to have my sister there, so that as I went through the financial details of what would happen after my death, they would feel somewhat emotionally protected by knowing that there was also family available to them.
I also had to make arrangements for power of attorney for property decisions, and for a representation agreement for my care while I was dying. Then my fiancé and I, since we were still planning to marry, needed to make a cohabitation agreement, which is what a prenuptial agreement is called in BC. We discussed our families, our individual and joint commitments to our children, and met with a lawyer the week after I left the hospital.
The second week, I phoned my best friend in Toronto, a pension lawyer and a deeply spiritual person who takes a lot of responsibility for her own family, parents, siblings, children, etc. She came and sat by my bed while I discussed funeral arrangements and emotional issues relating to my children and siblings. Where did I want my funeral, how could I appropriately integrate my own choices with their fundamentalist culture, etc.
Sometime during that last week, I was given a procedure to relieve my kidney failure and was discharged from hospital, with a gloomy outlook nonetheless, but my main doctor, who follows my care, said I must now think in terms of “years” and not “days” or “months.”
Overall, the fact that I had committed to providing for my children made me feel exhilarated. I felt empowered and in control of what was happening to me and my family. I felt that I had taken on ultimate responsibility, planning, decision-making, providing and protecting my children in the case of my death. It felt right. I instinctively took on this attitude after my divorce because I knew it was what men were supposed to do and I knew that this really meant that this is what humans are supposed to do. As humans we are to be responsible for our children, our family, or whoever falls under our care. With family or not, it is human to have people to whom we owe responsibilities, and it enhances our humanity to fill these responsibilities. For some people, they are in need, and can’t do this. Then they may need to understand they have to receive the care of others. In so many ways, I too have been the net receiver of care. In so many ways. This is reality.