I Care About You
Kenice Mobley and Emily Ruskowski are comedians who care about you. This week, they answer questions about facing the end of life, supporting a significant other, and toilet seat etiquette.
I’m suffering from a chronic incurable heart condition that causes ventricular fibrillation. I’ve had all the medications and surgery that can be done. Despite being fatigued all the time due to the medication I still really enjoy life and my children and now grandchildren. My two youngest are almost out of high school and I feel a strong need to stay close and get them on their way, My doctors have recently told me that my fibrillation is getting worse…I have an implant that acts as a pacemaker and a defibrillator that also monitors activity. My job also adds much purpose and value to my life. Nevertheless, I fight depression. I am not religious and don’t believe in an afterlife yet simultaneously believe in living with caring and kindness. How might you suggest I prepare for death and what might be ways I could say goodbye to my children that might leave them with a sense of joy?
Kenice: Wow, this is really an Emily question. All I can say is that this is terribly unfair, and that your level headed question and considerations makes it seem as though you’re handling this better than many in your situation. That you continue to be there for the ones you love, remain active in pursuing your passions, and believe in treating other people well is inspiring and makes a tremendously positive impression for the people in your life.
Emily: Yeah, thank you for writing in. Facing end-of-life is scary and distressing. I admire your commitment to your work and consideration for your family as you cope with your own emotions. Having lost a parent, I have some suggestions that may be helpful for your family during this transition. There are two pieces here: the logistical and emotional. One is more mundane but I think both are equally important. Let’s start with the former before I get all Nicholas Sparks on you.
The logistical piece is complicated and stressful, whenever it’s done. Having your affairs in order will be immensely helpful for your children when they are grieving your loss. I think it’s helpful to discuss wishes for final arrangements and finances openly with your children (candor will be a theme throughout my answer). Keep everything in a folder or envelope and tell them where it is. Make one or all of them beneficiaries on bank accounts, etc. Aside from financial and final expenses is the not-insignificant matter of stuff. When someone passes, there is a lot of stuff to sort (clothes, furniture, dishes, knick knacks, etc. etc.) Try to organize your living space so that it’s not completely overwhelming for them to sort through after you have passed. It’s not all hearts and flowers, but a lot of meaningful caregiving isn’t.
This is also a good segue into the emotional piece. First, I want to assert that your feelings are significant here, and your depression is normal and deserving of support and comfort. I would recommend working with a therapist or seeking out support groups (online or in person) that work with folks dealing with end-of-life stressors. I’m not sure how much your adult children know about your prognosis, but please keep them completely in the loop. Parents are used to protecting their children and doing whatever they can to comfort them. The thing is, you can’t shield your kids from your death. It’s a heartbreaking reality of parenthood. Six years after my mom’s passing I still get emotional wondering “did she know she was dying? Was she afraid? I wish I had known. I would have done xyz” If you can spare your kids that experience, I think that would be a wonderful gift to them. Let them walk this journey with you. Allow your kids and grandkids to participate in this stage of your life and do some emotional caregiving for you. I know that’s a tough task for a parent, but consider it an even trade for you doing the logistical stuff. Spend time with them, do fun things together (and not so fun things like going through material stuff with sentimental value and asking who wants what). Use this time together to celebrate the wonderful life and family you’ve built, and to reflect on and make new memories that you will all carry with you into the next stage; whatever that is. Something I find comforting and that sustains me when I am struggling with my grief is to think about keeping love. I don’t have concrete beliefs about what occurs after death, but I think about love as something that doesn’t get extinguished. Though my mom is gone, we (my sister, my dad, and I) get to keep all the love she gave so freely to us, and I hope and believe that she took our love for her with her as well.
Hi Emily and Kenice,
My girlfriend is having a really tough time. She has a serious illness in her family that she is dealing with, a serious illness with a pet that we are both managing (we live together) and problems at work that have been compounding everything else and causing her even more stress. In the meantime I have also been dealing with serious family, work, and mental health issues that I have been minimizing to keep her from having more to worry about. If I were to bring these issues to light, she would feel terrible and potentially try to put my needs above or on an equal plane with hers. I guess I want to know is if it’s okay to hide certain pain from a significant other if it is just to perpetuate the lie that you are doing okay?
K: If you continue to ignore your issues, you won’t have the capacity to be a good partner for her. What is bad about her putting your problems on an equal plane with yours? It sounds like you’re dealing with similar issues, what strategies can you put in place in your relationship, home, life overall that would be beneficial to you both? Also, I want to examine where this impulse comes from, the desire to be the less vulnerable, helpful partner. Not trying to antagonize this, but it seems a rather old idea for a modern relationship, and letting her in, being vulnerable and showing her that she’s not alone could be useful for her mental state?
E: I’m sorry to hear that you are both experiencing so many struggles right now. I think that Kenice raises some great points and I second her question about your needs being on an equal plane. It sounds like you are both invested in being caring, supportive partners. Can I ask how you would feel if the roles were reversed here? If she hid her struggles from you because your plate was already full, what would your reaction be? I would be willing to bet that you would not want her suffering in silence. Reiterating my answer to the writer of the first question, people never say “oh I wish you had told me later!” when a loved one is dealing with difficult circumstances. In close personal relationships, hiding things doesn’t normally work out so well. I think sharing your struggles and leaning on each other can only be a positive thing for your relationship.
I have come across an issue with a coworker. I just don’t understand why men have to be told to put the seat back down. Why don’t women have to remember to put the seat up?!
E: I love how our first two questions were from people asking how they can be supportive of their loved ones while they themselves are struggling aaaannnndddd then there’s THIS. If this is the most pressing issue in your life right now, you’re doing pretty damn well. Listen, polite society has deemed you put the seat down , because urine splashes on the underside of the seat on the top of the bowl, and no one wants to look at that.
K: If you’re willing to clean the entire toilet to make sure you’re not making it likely that someone is going to sit in your pee, by all means, leave the toilet seat up, but that’s a lot more work than just putting the toilet seat down. And you should read the other questions to get some perspective about what real problems are. What is your life that a small flick of the wrist is really putting you out? Leave the seat up if you wanna give 23% of your income to a woman. Leave the seat up if one day you’ll have a baby crash through your genitals, then we can talk, are you serious, I will burn your house down…
E: OK THANKS FOR WRITING EVERYONE!
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