Every time I walk past my “work at home” workstation, the corner where, until Friday, Kim’s medical records, our notes, and documentation relative to the equipment used to treat her cancer sat glares at me. It seems so very empty now. Her death certificates, certain insurance, and Social Security information remain, but the binders and folders have been replaced with a For Dummies book on my Christmas present – the first SLR camera I’ve owned in about 20 years – a digital SLR (the last one I owned used this substance they called “film”…) – some notepads, and a pile of religious books I had bought over the last few months – books related to on meeting your loved ones in heaven, purgatory, and things like that (light reading, I guess…)
There still remain many things I have yet to do with regard to settling all the necessary things about her life, but the task list – at least the KNOWN task list – is getting smaller. Some seem so ludicrous in the light of the “life change” we’ve experienced – like going to Sam’s Club to show her death certificate so that I can change my card to the master membership. In the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter much: it’s not a credit card (at least we don’t use it as one), but since each household gets two cards, it would be better to make one of the kids the second card so that it can be used. Getting my own “Kroger Card” so there is no confusion going forward on the credit card continuing for a deceased person, discounts, and “points”… Stuff like that, which the companies that provide them do not seem to have processes to manage such circumstances – at least no processes I’ve been able to ferret out. Most of her other credit cards – those that were in her name with me secondary or not at all (a good practice for all you young ‘uns starting your life together – if *I* were the one who had passed, having the good credit score that resulted from the clean payment records on those cards would have been VERY important to Kim’s future wellbeing!) were for merchants I have no further use for, and I have no interest in continuing a line of credit with those that remain. Those will eventually close due to no activity as I’ll be shredding the renewal cards.
Most of the “important” stuff is done – removal from my work-provided healthcare, removal as a beneficiary to my insurance policy… And then, I’ll be putting everything that’s left into a revocable living trust to make the kids’ lives easier when my time comes.
I will have to dig into her pension with her longest employer – unfortunately, they were “acquired” in recent years, and the issue of her pension is a bit murky. Kim wasn’t good at keeping track of that sort of thing, and, at the time the change took place, I was up to my eyeballs with one of the most difficult launches of my career in a far-away land. Hopefully, I saved the pertinent documentation in a rational place when I was home for a weekend. Best case, it’s in the front closet where I tend to toss all the “benefit” information we get. Second best case, it is stored with the income tax information for that year – a bit more difficult to find, but still better than “random”. Worst case, since I likely wasn’t at home when it came in, Kim squirrelled it away somewhere. We shall see.
And there are the angel statues that were part of Kim’s casket that we retained as mementos for the kids. I have to make mounts for them, which will put me at the controls of a router I haven’t touched in over a decade – the woodworking tools scattered about our home were predominantly Kim’s domain – she’d use them for her crafts. Her scroll saw, one of the first woodworking tools I bought for her, delivered up beautiful shapes at her hand that she would then paint and build into, say, a beautiful autumn display for the porch, or a Christmas plaque, or… For me, it only delivers frustration as, either due to impatience or dumb luck, I can never get it to cut on my line. Give me a jigsaw, circular saw – or even the bandsaw – instead!
Which brings the memory of the lathe laying in pieces in the garage since the day it was purchased. My brother had a nice lathe, and, WAAAAAY back in the day, he and I would drink some beers while turning silly little top-like shapes that Kim would turn into Christmas ornaments to sell at the craft shows she so enjoyed participating in. She loved those things so much that when her dad reported that one of his neighbors was selling a lathe and all the tools for it, she begged me to buy it for her. I did. And then I never found time to build the stand it would need to become useful. She never complained about that – maybe because she had enough to keep her occupied with all of her other tools, or maybe because she had forgotten it existed – but there it still sits, at least ten years now. More likely 15 – I honestly don’t recall. I guess that could qualify as a regret.
There are a few of those – regrets – looking back. Lots of instances where I wish I had responded differently to situations between Kim and I; to put her ahead of me. PLENTY of instances where I wish I could have resolved myself to understand, accept, and offer comfort, rather than be hurt by, or to rail against, the conditions or situation. I wish I had the understanding of certain of Kim’s conditions that I only developed late in our marriage. Almost too late for them to be a comfort too her. Just barely in time for at least one of them – a very important, elephant-in-the-room condition that Kim suffered with for about 20 or so of our 31 years – before the cancer diagnosis radically altered everything.
Again, we did become very close during her final 7 months. A death sentence like a stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis is almost miraculous in how it will refocus you. Unfortunately, though: it is also terminal, so it is a refocusing that comes too late. Please, if you’re half of a married couple, hunker down and refocus yourself before life convulses and wrests that control away from you; before it takes away your time. You’ll have to do this often. I know when I took the time – and effort – to alter how I responded to things during our marriage, over time, I would slip back into my old ways. And it is each of those periods of regression that haunt me now.