Unpleasant Conversations


By Sunshine Burgess

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” ~Benjamin Franklin

In the last few months, I have had so many people I know, young and old, pass away. In the last week, we have seen how even on American soil, our military members are not always safe. At some point, every one of us has sent a loved one off to a foreign land to serve their country and have no idea if they will make it onto the return flight home. So let’s be real and not tiptoe around the conversation that we all need to be having as families about death and what will happen if we die.

Maybe it is because I am from the South, but talking about death doesn’t disturb me. Southern people discuss death as easily as they discuss where they will go on vacation. I think I had been married just a few months when my grandfather wanted to know when we would buy our burial plots. My husband’s grandma went as far as gathering the information on current price from the cemetery where his family is buried. My parents have gone as far as discussing music selection with me and my sister. If and when something happens to them, I will know exactly what I am supposed to do, who I call and even the clothing they want to wear. They want a party with food and drinks to celebrate their lives. Sounds morbid, right? Not really. Everyone dies. Planning and understanding can make things more manageable for the living, because funerals and wakes and eulogies, those things are for the living.

So, have you and your spouse talked about the “what if”? First let’s talk technical. The very basic is life insurance, but you are told that over and over again. Mainly, just make sure there is still life insurance being paid for and that you are, in fact, the beneficiary. Many newly married military members forget to change their beneficiary to their spouse. Maybe they still have their mother listed or worse, their ex-spouse. This is not something you want to find out after the fact. The next military matter would be making sure to update the military member’s vRED (Virtual Record of Emergency Data). If that information is not updated and your information as a spouse is not on there, you won’t be the one notified if something were to happen. Lastly, make sure any wills are up to date. You can do this at the installation legal office for free, so don’t stress it being a costly endeavor.

Now, that was all the military dotting I’s and crossing T’s, but the truth is, you need to have a plan. Whether your spouse is killed in action, hit by a bus or diagnosed with a terminal illness, don’t wait until you HAVE to talk about it or THINK about it to have the difficult conversation. Where will you be buried? Will you be buried or cremated? Military burial? Military cemetery? If you are cremated, what do you want done with your ashes? Do you want a quiet family only affair or a party with 500 of your friends? Do you view death as an ending or a beginning? Mourning loss or celebrating life?

I am sure this all sounds creepy to most. Honestly, you just have to get over the creepy and think of it more as practical. My husband and I have had these talks. We don’t always agree as to what we want done and that is okay too. We don’t have to like the other’s plan, we just have to agree to follow through with each other’s last wishes. Even if those wishes are for my ashes to sit upon his nightstand so no other woman feels comfortable in his bed, then he will do it. If he doesn’t, I will haunt him; so either way, I WIN!

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