Death. It is not a subject to any of us relish talking about daily. It is something that we all know is going to happen to us, but we go through our lives pretending that it will never happen. It only happens to other spouses, families or friends.
My partner, Steve Oliver, died in February at Eisenhower Hospital. We just missed celebrating our 49th anniversary together in March.
I cannot accurately describe the feelings of loss, sadness and emptiness. It is beyond heartbreaking. I wasn’t prepared for it to happen. I thought he would rally, get better and return home from the hospital. However, it didn’t happen. I got a call late one night to say he had passed. I so wish I had been there to hold his hand from him.
We started every morning having our coffee and reading The Desert Sun. As we got older, our conversations became longer and the companionship of being together was even more special. Now I am reading the paper alone with my cup of coffee. The dogs still lay under the table waiting for some treat, but obviously it is not the same. It is my new normal.
“The irony of grief is that the person you need to talk to about how you feel is the person that is no longer there.”
This quote from an unknown person really nails how I feel. Those readers who have lost someone special know its power and truth.
I am writing this column not to get sympathy, but to remind valley couples both gay and straight that they need to have all their documents and plans available to each other for when the inevitable happens.
We had planned years ago making a trust and finding a cremation company. We paid the cremation company ahead of time. This is important, as they will come and pick up your loved one and help you with some of the forms needed for a death certificate. Death certificates are extremely important, as you can’t do anything legally or financially without one.
Calling Social Security is imperative, as your Social Security check can change. If there is a change, you will have to make an appointment with them in person to show them your marriage certificate. They want the real certificate, not a photocopy.
Technology has changed our world. It is so important to know your spouse’s passwords for their phone, computer, iPad and any other technical device. Plus, know your husband/wife’s pin numbers for their bank accounts.
All the above is overwhelming. It doesn’t have to all be done in a week or a month. Go at your own pace as you are not only dealing with paperwork, but daily grief.
Stay engaged with others.
We were blessed with many good friends. They have been nothing short of saints during this difficult time. Everyone has been so supportive.
My suggestion is to welcome your friends and family to your home if they ask to come visit. Accept dinner invitations, lunches or even a cup of coffee from your neighbors and friends. Being around people has helped me immensely. There is no sense sitting home feeling depressed.
Your dogs will feel the loss. Our dogs are very protective of me and the house. If they don’t know you, they won’t let you inside. Give your pets extra care as they experience their own kind of grief.
Don’t be shy about picking up the phone and asking if you can come over to talk to someone. The phone will stop ringing and the sympathy cards will stop arriving in the mail. People go on with their lives, but they are more than willing to help if you ask. Everyone grieves in their own way and time, but never be hesitant about asking for advice or wisdom during such a challenging time in your life.
Betty White said it best: “Keep busy with your work and your life. You can’t become a professional mourner. It doesn’t help you or others. Replay the good times. Be grateful for the years you had.”
Ray Matlock Smythe of Cathedral City is an author and retired teacher. Email him at Rayme49@aol.com.