Recently the Big Man and I had to make changes to our wills, and zoikes, there’s nothing like seeing the words “LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT” in that lawyerly, old-fashioned typewriter-style Courier font, to act as a memento mori.
Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary, and although it’s an unconventional way to celebrate, a great tradition would be to use our anniversary as a prompt to do an annual review of our situation, should the worst befall. Are our wills up-to-date? Do the Big Man and I have access to the financial information that the other person routinely handles? Etc. (For example, I know offhand that the Big Man has no idea where I keep the tax information or the kids’ birth certificates. I should probably mention that to him.)
I read this idea in Lynn Caine’s memoir Widow, about her experiences after her husband died when she was in her forties. She was left with two children, 9 and 5, and no idea how to handle the situation.
Every couple would have different concerns, but questions could include pensions, insurance, debts, guardianship of children, what the plan might be if income level or childcare arrangements had to change dramatically.
For the Happiness Project, I’ve read lots of accounts of cancer, sudden death, and other catastrophes. One common theme is how horrible and difficult it is to deal with cold logistics at a time of shock and grief. Being organized and knowledgeable would a comfort.
Repeating this review once a year, in the normal course, would keep it from seeming morbid – instead, it would be an ordinary expression of family responsibility. Also, because no one enjoys this kind of exercise, it would help to have an anniversary as a reminder that it needed to be done. Otherwise, it’s one of those tasks that’s always on the to-do list, but never tackled.
Lynn Caine calls it “Contingency Day.” Or maybe Unthinkable Day, or Be-Prepared Day, or Hourglass Day…
Although it seems like a supremely unromantic activity, looking at our wills made me feel overwhelmed with love for the Big Man. I was so grateful for the fact that he was alive and healthy. I imagine that Unthinkable Day would do this every anniversary.
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