We had a sudden death in our family this month. It was my mother’s husband of 8 years who was 69 years old. His son’s wife had delivered pre-mature twins just the night before, a poignant reminder of the delicate balance between life and death. My mom needed immediate support from us in comforting her and helping with all the necessary arrangements that had to take place. When I arrived to see her and schedule the appointment with the mortuary, I asked what my step-dad had shared with her about his final wishes?
She said, “We never talked about it.”
I know that the topic of death is uncomfortable for most people. How many of us want to contemplate our own demise? It’s the easiest thing in the world to postpone and procrastinate about. But, it is also very unfair to the surviving family members who are not only reeling from their shock and grief but now also are asked to make very big decisions that are even more complicated when you have stepfamilies involved.
My second book called “Choose Resilience” was all about the importance of getting out of your comfort zone using emotional intelligence. I warned of the dangers of unexpected change when you are not prepared for it and it played out before my eyes in the last few weeks. Fortunately for us, my step-brother who was his only child was incredibly supportive of my mother and made all the decisions about his father cooperatively and inclusively with her. This is not typical.
Because his father chose not to have an uncomfortable conversation or even put some things in writing, he put his son and his wife into a traumatic position. His son had a wife in the hospital recovering from a C-section, he had twins in the NICU, he had a 2-yr old son he needed to take care of and then be available to drive to the funeral home which was 3-hours away several times during that week. He and my mom had to discuss everything from cremation to inheritance and did so under emotional duress while trying to guess what he would have wanted. It was so unnecessary and unfair in many ways to the people he claimed to have loved the most in his life.