Xena makes an excellent stump rest.
What a beautiful slice of irony life can serve to those who prepare. A mere two months before Nick’s accident we each got Power of Attorneys and Living Wills. We got them just in the knick of time, yet had no idea just how soon we’d be using them.
The durable Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf. A Living Will lets you specify your wishes for life-support, organ donation, and end-of-life care if you become incapacitated.
There is no Common Law to protect unmarried couples in the state of California, so even though Nick and I were together for six years and planning for a lifetime, there would be no legal protection if one of us died or got injured. The Power of Attorney and Living Will gave us the opportunity to precisely lay out our wishes and ensure they are carried out. With those two documents, I was immediately able to make decisions regarding Nick’s health and finances based on his specific desires. I met no resistance, other than providing proof, and felt comfortable taking the lead when it came to making tough decisions while Nick was in a coma for a week.
Because Nick expressly named me as his executor, his wonderful family allowed me to take control, alleviating potential stressors that disagreements about health care can cause. His Mom stuck by my side as counsel, rather than opposition, because she knew her son would have wanted it that way. The Power of Attorney makes sure there’s only one chef in the kitchen, so to speak.
Getting to the point of actually creating these documents together took a few years. It’s one of those things you talk about doing, but is always last on the to-do list. We had several friends pass away, and many of their spouses said the aftermath would have been much simpler had they been more prepared. Had we waited just two months longer, it would have been too late. Who knows how things would have unfolded in the ICU if I wasn’t respected by the doctors as more than “just a girlfriend.”
Protecting yourself is extremely simple. There are a few online services that will provide a quick and painless experience. We used Legal Zoom. You answer a list of questions, all the while (hopefully) discussing with your person-of-choice the decisions you are making that they may have to carry out for you one day. For less than $100, and less than an hour of your time, you can assure peace of mind for you and your family. Once you receive the documents in the mail, rush out to get them notarized and then store them in a safe place. We put ours in a fireproof safe. Just don’t do what I did, and forget the combination and have to pay a professional safe-cracker $250 to get the documents out.
We also ordered wallet-size cards for quick reference for an extra $10. This has come in handy for me twice now, but each time I was still required to produce the original documents at a later date.
Here’s our challenge to you: begin by having an honest, open discussion about this with someone you love, trust, and respect. It can be anyone you are close to in your life, preferably someone dependable and capable of being level-headed in stressful situations. Find out if they are willing to take this responsibility seriously for you, and start the process of creating these documents.
Don’t wait until it’s too late.
In memory of John C. Carpenter
(10/25/1918 – 08/20/2012)
We honored my Grandpa’s life yesterday at the beautiful new Miramar National Cemetery with an Air Force funeral service that left no details overlooked.
Six uniformed Air Force members marched in unison, meticulously carrying about the task of transporting Grand Dad’s casket from the traditional horse-drawn carriage to the landing where the service took place. In the highest honor possible, as a group, they ceremoniously folded the American flag in preparation to give to Grandma. One servicemen sounded the bugle by playing Taps, a familiar tune I had never been privy to hear in person or with such great reverence, while three other servicemen fired a gun salute in Grandpa’s honor.
The gentle breeze nudged me with a feeling of pride to be part of his legacy. A highly accomplished Lieutenant Colonel with the United States Air Force, he dedicated his career and life to serving his country. He lived 93 years, and as Grandma said, they had “a beautiful, beautiful life together.”
Throughout the brief service, I glanced around at the expanding family he created and nurtured. Four generations of Carpenters gathered to say goodbye and support one another. The youngest generation being young babies, I couldn’t help but contemplate the cycle of life and death. I visualized the funeral ceremony 93 years ago of the family patriarch when Grandpa himself was just a baby.
I’m sure it was incredibly difficult to sum up Grandpa’s magnificent life into a 20 minute celebration. How could you? Apparently he had his own obituary already written ahead of time, but I wonder if he ever thought about what would be said about him in front of his family on the day of his burial. I don’t think many people do. Would that influence you to live a kinder, more meaningful life? Now that I think about it that way, I believe it does.
I barely knew my Grandpa. In fact, I was surprised to learn his middle name was Corbin, and that he had four sisters. Despite this, I am at peace with our relationship, or lack there of, and the many things that were left unsaid. Instead, I am grateful for the lesson he taught me in his death. The lesson to live a full life, a life of love and meaning, contribution and service, and to be proud of who you are and how you live.
At the closing of the ceremony when the decorated Air Force member presented Grandma with the flag, I choked up for the first time. I heard sniffles from the group, and could see Grandma, a frail old woman with a sharp memory and heart of gold, visibly shaken and trying to process the magnitude of what was happening at that moment. Even at almost 90 years old, after 67 years of marriage, a widow is still a widow. A painful loss we all know is possible, but worth the risk in order to share a lifetime of everlasting love with your soul mate.
(Written Saturday evening)
Seven weeks post-op and we can finally be (kind of) spontaneous again.
We’re getting pretty wild this weekend, boy! We are visiting a Buddhist Monastery tomorrow for a “day of mindfulness.” I’m not sure what we’re searching for, but it just feels right, so we’re going to check it out. The catch? Getting to Escondido by 8:30am. Ouch.
So when Ke texted Nick that he needed to get out of the house, we said, “So do we,” and an impromptu ultra-mini vacation was conceived.
Nick having a longer leash now is liberating in a way only new parents and injured people can appreciate. At noon we were tossing around the idea of meeting Ke at the beach and getting a hotel near the monastery, and by 2pm we were on the road.
This was Ke’s first trip to the beach since his accident, and Nick’s first time since his surgery. The dark skies made the temperature bearable for the boys, but the sun did peak out for a moment before falling off the edge of the Earth.
After Ke treated us to sushi and conversation, Nick and I used the hotels hot tub, a rare treat indeed. This was his third jacuzzi session since the accident, and only the first one in which he’s been able to comfortably sit on the cement seats.
Laying in bed now, Nick says he feels “really good” after soaking under the stars. (edit: He slept soundly too!)
I am so grateful for all the love in my life and my keen ability to create beautiful moments like the ones we’ve shared today.