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Fight or Flight

"Hey, when I suddenly die forty years ahead of when I'm expected to, make sure you have all necessary documents easily accessible, and be prepared for the most traumatizing series of phone calls in your life." - No One

We don't talk about after-death, do we? My husband and I certainly didn't. We chatted about retirement goals. Mental and emotional-health goals. And of course, our daughter, the center of our universe. We were young. Our biggest health complaints were headaches brought on by stress or rapidly shifting weather, and the usual back pain that comes from working on computers and not getting enough sleep. We were active. Ate well. Exercised. Sure, we knew we should go through the hassle of making wills at some point, but what was the rush? We had time.

Until we didn't.

No one talks about the phone calls, the paperwork, the tasks that have to be dealt with right after a partner's death: medical examiners (in some cases), funeral homes, bills, death certificates, social security, tax extensions. Child-trauma specialists. Memorials. What to do with the eight-thousand tons of food, flowers, and gifts strewn everywhere. And then there's the never-ending list that forms over the following weeks: adjusting service providers, cell phones, credit cards, vehicle titles, subscriptions, open orders, insurance (health, home, car, etc.), utilities, etc. The same questions asked, over and over. The same answers given, forced through a glazed mind and dry throat. Awkward pauses. Heartfelt condolences mixed with sterile platitudes. On and on and on.

The first calls, though, were by far the worst. Each one felt like throwing an incendiary into someone else's life while swallowing my own. There's no preparing, so don't bother trying. You'll do it because you have to, and that's that.

Don't talk about after-death if you don't want to. I get it. It sucks. But if the lightning of random tragedy ever strikes, I hope some part of you will remember this: You are not alone. I'm holding your hand. We'll make the calls together.

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