Wednesday evening all of us—Marja and I, our children Kai, Karin, and Laurel and our sons-in-law, James and Gabriel—sat down to talk about money in the light of my illness. The issues were a) the very practical one of transferring money to them in order to sequester it from Medicaid and b) the bigger issue of the financial future for all of us. The conversation felt good. I felt in them a quiet recognition of what was coming and why the conversation was necessary. I was surprised to find that Kai and others were specifically interested in my end-of-life desires. As I articulated them then they are pretty simple: I don’t want to be kept alive artificially after I can no longer recognize people; by “artificially” I would include treatment of even treatable infections (for instance, urinary tract infections) that left untreated would probably end my life. And I want the family to feel okay about putting me in a nursing home when they can no longer easily care for me. Especially if Marja were to die before I did, I don’t want the children putting their own lives on hold after I can’t at least mostly take care of myself.
Marja and I already both have wills and “Five Wishes” documents that go over this, but I will need to review them to make sure they take into account our new situation.
We mostly talked about the disposition of our money after both of us died. We’ve already talked to them about the fact that most of Marja’s inheritance will be going to work for justice. We haven’t yet decided on the details but some portion will defray college tuition costs for the grandchildren; most, however, will be going to work against poverty. While each of the children supports our decision at an intellectual level, it’s only natural that there is some unhappiness at an emotional level that the bulk of the inheritance will not go to them and their children. I’m glad we had the conversation.
I’ve thought again how it will be when I can no longer actively participate in family conversations and decisions like this. I think I’ll be aware of it and feel sadness (and most likely some resentment) at the distance. Once again, these are thought about the future. The present is filled with positives.
During this visit, Karin, Laurel and Kai have been intentionally making decisions to spend time together with me, and I’ve been very appreciative. I’m happy that my children want to be with me before they feel like they have the responsibility to care for me. An issue like this makes us all more appreciative, I expect, of how tenuous our lives are and how important it is to take advantage of the moment when it’s here. I’ve been very grateful for this vacation and the desire of every member of the family to spend time together. It’s clear that I will have a lot of support during this illness.
In reading to my grandson Otto last night, I noticed I had forgotten most of the previous chapter that I’d read the night before. Otto has a phenomenal memory for the book, so it’s not reasonable to compare myself with him, but even reading last night’s chapter through a second time, the memory of the previous reading was not clear.