on Oct.03, 2013, under Life in General
For years Alan & I stressed the importance of communication in a relationship. We believed that everyone’s sex lives could be better if they’d only admit to their partners that they wanted to try a sex toy or have their ass spanked or dress up like a Power Ranger or whatever it is that they really wanted. I still say that’s true. We also believed that if couples would learn to communicate about bills, in-laws, job issues, and everything else that may be difficult without letting Temper and Ego join the talks, they’d spend a lot less time arguing and more time enjoying each other. That’s true too, or at least it was for us.
However, even though he and I practiced what we preached on those points, we still skipped talking about death. There, I said it. Death. And my guess is that about half of the people reading this clicked away as soon as I did. That’s a shame because there’s a lesson in this that I wish we’d learned, and I hope the rest of you will benefit from it.
Death talk isn’t sexy or romantic no matter how much you may have dug Romeo & Juliet (which personally I thought sucked) and it’s one of those things that I doubt if anyone is really comfortable talking about. It’s something for “old people” to worry about, and most of us define “old people” as “people a lot older than us” no matter what age we are. It’s the thing that happens to others, or at least that’s what we like to tell ourselves subconsciously. The problem is, if you’re in a long-term relationship death is at one point going to be a natural, inevitable part of your love, and you should make sure that your partner isn’t going to be hurt by a lack of information if they’re the one who gets left behind.
Years ago in passing conversation (probably brought on by a TV show) Alan & I had established that we were both fans of quiet cremations, without funerals for people to be depressed at or head stones for people to boohoo over. That was the extent of our talk— issue closed and forgotten. It wasn’t enough. His death was a slow process that lasted almost 2 weeks, during which he was in and out of consciousness when there were a lot of decisions to be made. I didn’t know if he approved of life support, how many procedures he would have agreed to on his own, or at what point he would have told us to stop. I let the doctors do anything they thought could save him, but in hindsight felt guilty for all that he suffered.
After he died, the visit to the funeral home was another exercise in questions-with-no-answers hell, with an overly eager salesman playing the devil. Was there a particular outfit he would want to be cremated in? Did he want an obituary? A preacher? What should be done with the ashes? On and on it went, and I don’t think I’ll ever *not* feel like I failed him somewhere along the line, in some way. Worse is knowing that if I had been the one to go first, he would have been the one feeling this way.
If you’re still reading, then good on you. You’ve got a lot of grit (and patience!) What I hope now is that you’ll take this message as it’s intended and find a way to have The Talk with your partner. If you’re young and healthy then all the better; it will be less upsetting to talk now than trying to do it when one of you is ill, and far better than leaving your partner to decide everything alone. It’s not a fun subject to chat over, but when you think about it constructive relationships are full of conversations that may feel a little odd at first— from revealing your kinks to ironing out your quirks. Just think of this in the same way.
If you aren’t in a long term relationship or really cannot bring yourself to mention these subjects, then you can still protect your future or current partner by writing down your wishes and leaving the list somewhere that you know they’ll find it if the time comes when it’s needed. In America you can find formal paperwork called an Advanced Directive and/or a Living Will. Mayo Clinic has a pretty good informational page on those, including suggestions on where you can find pre-made forms online.
No matter what you think of it at this moment in time, most people will eventually agree that sharing this info is just another act of love.