Talking About Dying

July 20th, 2018

joslyn mcintye freelance writer vermont

I have been working on getting an estate plan together.

I love the phrase “estate plan” because it implies we are in possession of some pretty spectacular assets. I picture a Tudor-style mansion with well-manicured French gardens stretching down to the sea, shiny Bentleys driven by an on-staff chauffeur, and a private jet I’ll have to decide which child to officially bequeath to.

This is not quite accurate in our case. In place of assets, we have a monthly house-rental fee and some sentimental objects with no real financial worth. Still, my kids are now three, and my husband and I in our later forties, and it seems prudent that we finally get our shit together.

A few years ago I helped a client ghostwrite a book about estate planning, and it scared the bejesus out of me. At the time, not only did I not have a will, or an advanced directive, or a power of attorney, but I did not have retirement savings, nor any type of plan for the girls’ education and orthodontia. I was in your basic denial of death and aging.

Then we moved — a huge ordeal that took over my life. It’s been a year, and we’re finally settled in Vermont, and I had to face the music and do some adulting around my estate and financial planning. I decided to spend this summer putting aside one hour a week on this project. I greatly underestimated how much time it would require.

Take just one small item on my list: get life insurance.

As a freelance writer, I don’t have benefits, so I have to take care of this type of thing myself. While Jon was able to sign up for life insurance by checking a box when he was hired, I have to jump through hoops. I called my existing State Farm rep because they already handle our car and renter’s insurance. This kicked off a multi-week project where I’ve had to:

  • Answer a bunch of questions on the phone, all of which felt like trick questions

  • Go into his actual office and spend an hour sitting in a chair while he filled out the electronic application for me

  • Answer a bunch more interrogation-style questions with someone else, over the phone, about whether I smoke, drink, slut around, etc.

  • Have an in-home medical exam, including having blood drawn

I still haven’t heard whether I get the privilege of paying them a monthly fee for life insurance I desperately hope never to use.

Estate planning is funny in that way because it’s a lot of tedious, complex, time-consuming work that you hope will never pay off. Not only do you get no immediate gratification, but you ideally get no gratification at all for a very long time. And let’s face it, you never get any gratification for your efforts, because, well, you’re dead.

At the same time I’ve been focused on this macabre and depressing activity, my daughters have this new habit that I absolutely loathe. For no reason at all, throughout the day, they’ll fall over and exclaim “I’m dead!” I blame this on Daniel Tiger, because I’m sure in one of those saccharine, inane episodes there was some life lesson about “everything dies” or something.

And I don’t want to lie, so when my daughter asks, “Will I die?” I am morally obligated to say “Yes, someday. Hopefully not for a very, very long time.” It’s incredibly hard to have this conversation with her, and I sometimes find myself saying “Don’t say that!” when they pull the whole fall-over-I’m-dead trick.

I know this whole discovery-of-death thing is probably a normal phase, but I wish I could shield my daughters from it forever. And myself, for that matter.


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