Years ago, when my children were young, “having the talk” usually referred to a conversation about the birds and the bees or the facts of life. When they were in college, “having the talk” usually referred to a conversation with a boyfriend/girlfriend to define where their relationship was going. But at this stage of life “having the talk” has a different meaning.
In the last few years I’ve talked to so many couples where one or both are going through a health crisis. Everybody reacts differently — some cry, some go silent, some get angry. But I’ve learned, through my own experience and that of others, that there are certain things we can do that will ultimately make things easier. One of these things is to have the talk.
“Having the talk” means sitting down together to discuss all those things you don’t want to discuss. This is the hard part of the talk —
— What if someone dies or is incapacitated? Does the other one know what to do?
— Have you executed a power of attorney and a living will for while you are alive? Do you have a will for after you’ve died? (By the way, if it’s been several years since you’ve done this, revisit it. Time changes people and circumstances, so make sure it still says what you want it to say.)
— Where are all the important papers — wills, deeds, bank accounts, etc.?
— Do you know how to pay the bills? Most often one of the partners has been responsible for managing the finances, but the other partner also needs to know how to do it.
— Is there a business involved? If so, what’s the plan if a key person can’t continue to work?
— Are there children, especially young children still at home?
— What about burial arrangements and plans?
“Having the talk” means sitting down together to say all the things you’ve been meaning to say, but haven’t found the time. This is the tender part of the talk —
— Tell them how much you love them.
— Tell them how much they mean to you and how much they’ve added to your life.
— Forgive for all those petty shortcomings that we let slip into our daily routines.
— Tell them about your faith in God. It will be a comfort and will bind you together.
— Pray together.
— Tell them it’s ok for them to go on living if you should be the first to go.
It’s so important to have this conversation with your spouse. If there’s no spouse, then you probably need to have it with your adult children. And if you absolutely can’t bring yourself to say the words, then sit down and write it out. Because if the worst happens, the hard part of the talk will get you through all the technical things you’ll be faced with. And the tender part of the talk will get you through all the long quiet times you will experience.
You would think that the hard part of the talk would be the hardest to do. But for some of us, to be completely open, vulnerable and emotional is very difficult. Do it anyway. You won’t regret it.