To coin a clichéd phrase you never know what’s round the corner. It’s a blessing we don’t. However, we need to prepare for the inevitable, when death knocks at the door, plucking a partner who has been there all your life, someone who has taken care of all the practical aspects of everyday life, like banking, finance, etc. which people like me find utterly boring and daunting.
As a rule with most women of my generation, we keep off these “trivialities” as we label them despite entreaties from our men who want us to learn how to live. One friend reminded me of an article in an old Readers Digest which was titled How to Help Your Wife be a Good Widow…it sounded so frivolous at the time, but not funny any more in the present context where you are left alone to cope with a situation beyond your control, bereft of children who will hold your hand, handle everything and leave you to grieve in peace. The present gen expects you to be independent, strong, invincible and get through all the formalities without a whimper.
Out of experience, I would advise all couples to discuss what each would do if one dies. We did. Each of us should write a Living Will. Take a bound diary, one which will not get misplaced easily and note down what is where.
Declutter first, getting rid of all unnecessary garbage in your files, which have gathered over the years. Don’t throw away what you don’t understand…your spouse might have kept it for a particular reason. In your Living Will book, write down the list of important files you have…topping the list should be Medical and Insurance. Always let someone know where you keep these files and keep them handy to be grabbed at a moment’s notice. Write down where you keep your fixed deposits, cheque books and pass books, where the key to your bank locker is kept. Note down the number on each deposit and when it matures, and how much interest you will get and when.
Make a note of where you keep your property papers and your will. These papers are best placed in the locker in your home where your heirs will have easy access and it will be the obvious place to find them. A woman should keep a stock of your jewellery, where they lie, and to whom they will ultimately be bequeathed. Encourage the children to take away what is theirs instead of having you as custodian which adds to the responsibility of living.
And you cannot ignore the lesser important details, yet vital for daily life like payments made to your staff, salaries, advances, bills that have been paid on a regular basis, like milk, telephone, gas, electricity, so on and so forth. Cumbersome, yes but it gives you peace to know your affairs are in order, and the ones who take over will not curse you for living a life of disorder though blissfully you will be unaware of it.
I am still in the process of getting my own life in order, and since my husband was one of those meticulous types, I don’t have to seek frantically, to find. And yet it has to conform to my system of working and one which I find convenient.
Mobilising your finances, not spreading them too wide, over many banks and not speculating after a certain age is sensible. Accounts should be easily accessed and you should be in a position to handle them..
We are fast reaching a paper less society and the sooner we train ourselves to online banking, fund transfers etc, the better otherwise we will be left behind in the race. The world is moving at a very fast rate, technologically as well, and if you can’t keep pace, get help, for your own survival..
The list of responsibilities a survivor has is overwhelming. Apart from the grief which is a dead weight in your heart there are so many formalities to look into. Don’t push yourself so much at the same time don’t procrastinate, keep your mind active. Try to slowly get back into the mainstream of life however hard it may seem but only when you are ready. Cry when you feel like it, don’t ever stifle your sobs as it is nothing to be ashamed of. A sudden gust of familiar fragrance, the glimpse of a dear friend, that music which you both loved, the clothes, a scarf….is enough to set up emotions which are difficult to restrain.
Slowly the gruesome scars, are less gory in the process of healing, the sludge inside you turns to something more pleasant though the pain will remain for the rest of your life. Friends urge me to get out of the house, taking a break, like a movie with friends, driving down the beach, visiting someone. Without the guilt that creeps in.
Believe me, I’m trying hard.
And now I will get back to filling the first page in my Living Will Book…