Yesterday afternoon, Kendell and I had an appointment with an attorney.
You see, after his mom died we learned something: it’s difficult when people die without a will. Even if there are no family arguments about who gets what (there were none), there is an extra expense and a whole bunch of extra work involved in parceling out the remaining money to the family. As Kendell was the executor, we know it’s not a pleasant job. It is rough having to meet with lawyers, go to court, fill out paperwork, keep track of the time limits, and do everything else that probate involves, especially as you have to do this right after someone you love has passed away.
We decided we don’t want that to happen to our kids, and that we needed a will. And yesterday was the day.
As I sat in the lawyer’s office, my fingers and wrists swelling with a combination of heat (the air conditioning wasn’t working yet in his new office) and anxiety, I had one of those out-of-breath moments. Nearly panic. Because one day, one of us will be on the other side of that will. One of us will sit in an office somewhere, discussing the details of the will.
The other will be gone.
And I don’t want it to be me who dies first.
I also don’t want to be the widow discussing the details of the will.
I don’t want death to be a truth. And while we were being mature grown ups about the process, what I really wanted to do was curl into a big, fetal-esque ball. And bawl. About how much I miss my dad and Kendell’s parents and about how once it was my sister who was the widow in a lawyer’s office and how one day I’ll be in a lawyer’s office discussing my mother’s will. And one day my sisters will die. And my friends. And people I don’t even know yet who I will, when they finally make it into my life, love desperately and not want to lose. I thought about Sheila and my cousin and the sweet old lady in my neighborhood who died last week. And I thought about J and what he might think and if I’ll ever see him again before it’s my turn to leave, and what my kids will feel when I’m gone, and whether or not I’ll get to do the things I want to do with my life before it is over.
My rings were tight on my fingers, and my watch was stuck to my plumping wrist, and I had to tell myself to just breath and act normal because probably lawyers don’t like it when people have meltdowns in their new office.
When we got home I was filled with thoughts of death, and the terror of not existing.
So while Kendell was talking to the neighbor about the new roof we need, I did this:
At first I doubted the peace-bringing possibilities of this decision, as I confess: I am terrified of bees. The tree, with its branches loaded with blossoms, was also loaded with bees. So many that you could hear them buzzing from the driveway. But instead of freaking out, I just lay in the grass, feeling my heart pound, trying to slow down my breathing.
And it started to work. As my natural those bees are all going to swoop down on me, with their creepy dangly legs, then crawl all over me and sting me to death response faded, I started listening. (Even though I was ostensibly reading.) The hum of the bees, busy at their work, was the perfect soundtrack to the cool, finally-green grass and the grey-blue sky.
It was peaceful.
And I filled up with it. It trickled into all of my dark corners and brushed aside the fear of dying. The bees’ hum was a sort of chorus, with an undertone of yes you’ll die one day but a resonance of you’re alive now. The grass under my back, the sky above me, those gloriously pale pink blossoms and their faint, delicate scent: I was alive for all of it. I am alive right now, with my still-sore ankle and my greying hair, in my house that is twitching and pinging as the sun starts to warm it, the sun that is just pushing through the slats on the window blinds. I am breathing and happy and I am alive, right now, which is all anyone ever gets. Right now.
I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow.
The antidote for the fear of death is to live as hard and as real and as thoroughly as possible.