‘In the Event of my Death…’

English: Sir Winston Churchill.

English: Sir Winston Churchill. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you are lucky enough to still have your spouse intact, I have a question.

Do you ever discuss, you know, the D word? Is ‘death’ part of your warm, couply vocabulary, or is it one of those subjects like exes and the fact that it took him SO FUCKING LONG to propose that is never broached?

Even after He was critically ill, and the click-whoosh of His mechanical heart valve kept me awake at night, my husband and I never discussed what would happen in the event of the other’s death. It was taboo, I guess because it had almost been reality and neither of us wanted to think about the what ifs.

Besides, that Registrar in the hospital, the little fella with whom I high-fived like a fucking cheerleader when I saw him months later in the heart clinic, stated quite clearly that Mark ‘would have a normal life span’ post-surgery. So why would we spend time as a couple talking about, you know, the D word, when we had three Mad Men box sets to get through?

After the unthinkable happened, I spent a considerable amount of time and money amassing books on the subject of grief and how to deal with it. I wanted an answer to this devastating conundrum I was suddenly faced with and I convinced myself that titles such as ‘I Wasn’t Ready To Say Goodbye’ and ‘After You’d Gone’ were key texts in achieving this.

Whilst they work for some people, I quickly realised that they weren’t going to do much for me. In fact, no book can tell you how to grieve, or how to get over the death of your spouse. There is no antidote.

One book which remains well-thumbed though is entitled ‘In Loving Memory’ (sent to me by a friend in the aftermath). This morning as I was hunting for some sage words to help me get through the day, I opened it at a quote by Winston Churchill. It is an excerpt from a letter to his wife and is entitled ‘In The Event of my Death’.

“Do not grieve for me too much,” he writes. “…If there is anywhere else I shall be on the look out for you. Meanwhile look forward, feel free, rejoice in Life, cherish the children, guard my memory. God bless you.”

Oh to have been Churchill’s widow upon reading those words! He had given her a steer, given her permission to move on. Stated his wishes for her life from beyond the grave.

Stuck out here as I am in this vast ocean of grief, I can’t help wishing Mark and I had had that discussion, that he’d lent me that guiding hand.

For I’m lost. What would you want me to do, love?

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11 thoughts on “‘In the Event of my Death…’

  1. Reblogged this on mainelyhopeful and commented:
    Reblogging this because it’s an important topic for all couples, regardless of your age, state of health, whether or not you have children. We had those conversations, mainly because of the sudden death of my sister and my cancer diagnosis. He, of course, was going to live forever. Being eleven years younger I always had a sense I would be widowed at some point until the events of 2012, which seemed to level the playing field a bit. And to Wife After Death, ask yourself what you would want for him, had you gone first. xxoo

      • It was mostly me talking and him humming with his fingers in his ears 😉 Being close to retirement age (him) and having grown children and a new grandson it was mostly financial in nature. I wanted to start downsizing all the “stuff” you accumulate in 30 years so we didn’t leave our kids in a mess, update the will, etc. Since he’s been gone I am doing all of that on my own. I feel like I’ve been getting my affairs in order all summer and I’m sure my kids are sick to death of hearing about it, but at least they’ll know what’s what. It’s so different for you with a young child and so many years ahead of you to make a new life that doesn’t include him. I’m sorry 😦

  2. Oh, I so relate to this one. G didn’t want to acknowledge we’d been told he ‘probably had a year’ (which turned out to be 9 weeks in any event). I took him away for the weekend ‘to have THE talk’ and I just couldn’t. He was being so positive and talking about things he wanted to do and places we would go, and I just couldn’t bring myself to remind him he was dying. So, I put it off and decided I’d definitely do it after Xmas, but we never got there. I constantly change my mind about whether it would have been better if we’d had the conversation, but knowing G we probably never would have. I just have to believe that I’ve done things they way he would have wanted, cos I’ve done the best I could on any given day. You have too and Mark would have been proud off how well you’ve done. Much love xx

    • Yes I have done my best, I think, but I’ve also done my worst. I mean, I’ve done some really stupid, dodgy shit since He died. Stuff He would be shaking His head at and saying, ‘No pet. No’. I just wish I could speak to him one last time to ask for some guidance. Clearly you feel the same. No point in dwelling on it, utterly pointless, but still. Love to you too. X

  3. my mind just seemed to zero in upon the excerpt of the letter Winston Churchill wrote to his wife on …”in the event of my death”. perhaps your dear mark was guiding you to it all along, hoping you would read, then consider. you refer to stupid, dogdy shit since he died, but maybe he sees it in an all too human perspective of the floundering and being bereft when so many of us suffer such profound grief at sudden death of our beloved. and perhaps you will be able to accept his most tender mercies to you, his beloved, believing for you that you will find your way.

    my husband’s last words to me were, “i’m okay” in response to my calling out to him when I heard him making his way from the bathroom back to our bed. just a short time later, I would awaken suddenly to find him tucked in next to me with no heartbeat, no respirations, but with a peaceful look on his dear face, with no signs of having had any pain or being frightened. his second to the last words to me as were heading up to bed that night were, “I paid all the bills, and filed our taxes”, a most extraordinarily unusual declaration in view of the fact that those chores were routine for him and I knew that he had concluded them, having taken a good part of the day before to do so.

    nearly 4 months since he died, I have tried to remember that those 2 comments, interspersed with great affection and several inclusions of “I love you” that we exchanged during that short span of time in which he would soon slip his earthly bonds, was his way of telling me that he was preparing me for what I believe he had some inkling of, as well as letting me know that I would be “okay” as well. of course, I AM NOT OKAY. but it gives me some consolation that he tried to be sure that I will be…someday. for now, it is all I have to cling to, along with a letter he wrote to me, and to each of our children, kept sealed in our safe deposit box, to be opened only upon his death. I have only been able to read it once, as he expressed he wished he could have been everything I wanted, but thought he failed in some measure. now I write to him on a running page kept hidden in my laptop – to tell him, as I always expressed, that he was the best thing that ever happened to me. and I will keep reminding him of that, and thanking him for leaving the clues that I am forever grateful for, the touchstones that his faith in me will keep me up to the challenge so that maybe, just maybe, much further down the road from this god-awful loneliness for him and grief that swallows me up and spits me out into a battered lump – that I will be okay…someday.

    much love and light to help you find your way, XOXO,

    karen

    • Wow. Emotive response. Thank you. I like the thought thatMark somehow directed me towards the Churchill quote. It would make sense, as he was a big fan of all things WW2! And on reflection, they are the kind of sentiments I think he would have had also. Your description of your husband’s last few words does make me wonder whether he had some kind of prescience – did he know he was dying? Also, the fact that he left letters for you – was this something he would have done anyway? Incidentally, I think that is a wonderful (thought utterly heartbreaking) thing to have done. You must get much comfort from them – if not so much now, definitely down the line. Thank you for sharing such intimate thoughts. We are all floundering, as you put it, and it is ‘good’ (if that’s the word) to know you’re out there. Love and continued strength to you Karen. X

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  4. The McMillan nurse tried to get us to talk about Ian dying and even left us a plan to fill in !! How do you have a discussion about your loved one dying with your loved one. It’s just too hard. Ian never really accepted he was going to die so I certainly wasnt going to be the one to burst his bubble. Although one day I came home from work at lunchtime and Ian had his pension papers etc all over the dining room table. He said ‘this is something we need to do’. I turned tail and went back to work. I just couldn’t do it. It’s always been something I feel sad about though, leaving Ian to sort it himself it must have been a painful afternoon for him. I never looked at those papers till after he died as they were locked away in a briefcase. He had elastic bands round them and yellow post its with telephone numbers on. He tried to make everything as easy as he could for me for which I’m eternally grateful. I just wish I’d sat with him that afternoon. I wish I could focus on the good things I did for him but that one thing keeps burning into my memory. I miss him so … Love and strength to everyone out there going through the pain of losing their loved ones xx

    • Firstly, a plan to fill in??? Christ! I can’t believe that. Regarding your refusal to engage in the pensions discussion, you absolutely should stop beating yourself up about that right now! Sitting down and coldly going through paperwork related to the time after your husband dies, with your husband, is more than most people could bear. I certainly would have done exactly the same thing. Bless him, he made it as easy as he could for you, but I have no doubts he would have understood why you didn’t want the discussion. I guess one advantage is that you now don’t have to deal with a memory of that afternoon? Wishing you peace – whenever that may be. Love x

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