I love my husband very much, and so I asked him how he wants to die.
I wrote in my previous article – Talking about Good Death: Marriage and Mortality – that my husband, Andy, and I started our conversation about death with a simple question:
“If I died today, what would be different for you?”
The rationale behind this question is simple – I want to know how my death would affect my partner; not just emotionally, but in all areas of his life. Have I always been the one managing the upkeep of the house? Would he have the knowledge or resources to help himself when I’m not around? Would he remember to give the dog his monthly deworming pills, and does he even know when it’s due every month? This question has made my husband and I realize how much we do for each other and helped us to appreciate each other more. It also serves as a reminder that we need to at least know how to do certain things, even if we don’t have to do it ourselves. Yet.
Some other questions we discuss are:
“If you are terminally ill, what would be a good quality of life to you?”
This helps us tremendously in understanding what kind of care our partner would like at the end of life, especially when they are too sick to make decisions for themselves. It would also take a huge burden off our shoulders (and possible regrets) if we have a good idea of what our partner wants in life and death. A great website to look at for a facilitated discussion on end of life care options, also known as advance care planning (ACP), is Living Matters
“What do you think would help me get through my grief if you die?”
This gives us an opportunity to discover all the resources that our partners see in us, whether it’s our sunny disposition, positive outlook in life, strong support network etc. This question also helps us understand what our partners may hope for us to do after they die. For example, Andy thinks that cooking could be a way for me to cope with my grief should he die. This is because he’s a master chef in our kitchen and he constantly shows his love for me by cooking my favourite dishes. In this way, cooking would be a way for me to remember how much he loves me, and to honour his memory.
“How would you want your funeral to be like?”
This was an especially important question for Andy and I, because we are not from the same country and do not share the same religion. We needed to clarify place of funeral, method of mourning rituals, location of final resting grounds etc, so that when the time came, there would be no hoo-haa or conflicts between loved ones about how the funeral should proceed. Practical matters aside, we also talked about the ‘fun’ stuff, like the decorations, colour of casket and songs that we would like at our own funerals. In this way, we know that one of us would have at least fulfilled the other’s wishes till the end, and there is no greater comfort than that in a time of pain and loss.
You will be surprised at how many other questions get churned out from these few points, and how many more new things you learn about yourself and your partner. Keep the conversation going – life changes and so do perspectives and desires. Be respectful, sincere and loving when having discussions (it is easy to be disturbed when our partner’s wishes do not coincide with ours) and always come from a place of curiosity and kindness rather than judgment.
Death is not an easy topic to talk about, but a necessary one. It can be painful and tear-jerking, or funny and heartwarming, and it always, always requires a large amount of courage.
And above it all, I do love my husband very much, so I asked him how he wants to die.