A year ago this month, we met with Dr. Maunder, a palliative care physician. One of his jobs was to help Hubby complete a POLST form (Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment). In the course of the conversation, Dr. Maunder asked him this: “What most concerns you?”

Hubby pointed at me and said, “Leaving her.”

And so that next Saturday, Hubby announced that he was going to spend the day teaching me how to survive. I learned how to do our banking online, including how to deposit a check using my phone camera. Hubby taught me how to use my phone’s GPS system.


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And he pulled out a large pipe wrench for lessons on unclogging the bathroom sink. I gave him my best raised-eyebrow look, whereupon he put the pipe wrench away.

We also discussed some of the issues Dr. Maunder’s questions raised. Funny how we lived with the knowledge that Hubby would die of cancer but we hadn’t really talked much about death and dying.

Here are five things every couple should discuss sooner than later:

1. Medical wishes. I knew Hubby wanted no heroic efforts taken should he stop breathing, but it removed a load off my mind to have this in writing and on file with the medical professionals. For most people, an Advance Directive is sufficient as it appoints a legal health care representative and provides instructions for future life-sustaining treatments. In Hubby’s case, the POLST form served as a summary of the patient’s wishes for end-of-life care.

2. Financial matters. Both Hubby and I were on top of our finances, but when he retired, he took over the paying of the bills and the balancing of the bank account. There were some tech tools he used that were new to me, and I needed to be brought up to speed. (Love online banking, by the way.) We utilized a small, portable fire-proof safe with a simple filing system to keep all important documents organized and in one location.

3. Tech stuff. I was married to a computer geek. We had four websites and Hubby was the genius behind it all. He once mentioned locating a company that was hosting our non-profit website for free. But I had no clue who that was, or who hosted the other three sites. Or from whom we had purchased our domain names. Trust me. These people all wanted to be paid. Annually. Does your spouse have an interest or small business that you assume will die right along with him/her? This is what I thought would happen with Cancer Adventures. But don’t assume anything; instead, learn what’s going on.

4. Updated will. The last update on our will was when our children were younger than our grandchildren currently are. Tells you how often we thought of death and dying. Most assets are not distributed by will, i.e., life insurance and invested funds. These are passed on to the named beneficiaries. For owned property where no beneficiary is named, each state has its own set of laws that parcels out properties to nearest relatives. It would be wise to have a plan in place long before it’s needed.

5. Future plans. I once said to Hubby that I would miss his wisdom. “Who would I call for advice on major decision making?” I whined. And so it was helpful that we discussed a few different scenarios, after which he said I was going to have to look for a rich next husband. While I don’t plan to remarry, it’s kind of nice to know I have Hubby’s blessings. (Does that even make sense?)

Speaking of remarriage, this advice from the Just-Turned-Seven-Year-Old –

Lydia: “Are you going to always live alone?”

Me: “Probably.”

Lydia: “Are you never going to get married?”

Me: “Do you think I should?”

Lydia: “Yeessss!


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Me: “Why?”

Lydia: “Because what if someone breaks into your house and you need someone to show you how to get out?”

Hadn’t thought of that. Wanted: One capable and way-finding male who can guide me out of my own house during a break-in.