It is the beginning of a new month.And Augusts are always special. Often, there are an umpteen number of holidays and festivals lined up in August – which would naturally mean fun time with family. August Is a very special month for me too. Both my father-in-law and husband have their birthdays in August and our marriage anniversary is in August too. Incidentally my grandparents too were married in August. Hence, the month had always been special for me.My son having completed his board exams this year, my husband and I had planned for a gala wedding anniversary this year. But what we hadn’t planned for was a future without one of us. So, here I am – facing the August rain – alone!
Death, sickness and separation isn’t a pleasant thing to talk about but standing at this juncture I’ve realized that it is wiser to look at the issue practically than attach a mere sentimental value to it. Everytime my husband spoke about ATMs and banking issues, I would hardly pay attention because I always had the rosy belief that I would die in my husband’s lap with a red saree and that perfect smear of vermillion on my forehead. The result of this was the intense game of permutation and combination I had to do to crack the code of ATM pin while he was hospitalised. Thankfully, I had known him too well to decipher his thought process in selecting the PIN number!
Incidentally, I recently read a real life incident in a group about a couple who were young and married for just three years or so. They were both well established professionals. Unfortunately one fine day the husband went out for a work, never to return again. All that was returned to her was his mangled body after a fatal crash. This wasn’t the end of the story. The story merely began from here. The husband being an IT guy had passowrd protected every important document, every mail, every banking detail. Being in IT security services himself, he had the habbit of changing the passwords every now and then. Thus began her epic struggle in retrieving all his data, documents, banking details etc. Also, both being working professionals, they had the luxury of choosing very high EMI to be repaid. With her husband’s death a bulk of the earnings was gone, leaving her in a difficult postion to pay the EMIs alone! I could well relate with her narration and thus thought of penning this blog.
From childhood, I’ve always heard of this phrase – Be Prepared. Being a Christian I understood from childhood that it is important to be good and kind so as to ensure a safe berth to heaven. Being a Hindu, my husband had also almost heart the same thing – what we do today, now will ensure a better kind of birth in our next cycle. So, either for Berth or for Birth, we prepare ourselves and invest in spirituality and ‘doing good’. How much we are able to do is a different question but often we are never prepared for the rainy days – especially when we are young. We almost, always believe that ‘’being prepared’’ in practicality is for the older generation.
But at times when lightening strikes, we are caught unawares. A young couple, about to be married, were recently struck by the lightening and thunder as they were spending some intimate moments together in an open park. They had merely got into the park after a shopping spree for their wedding. The man died on the spot, while the woman is critical. Life, often catches us unawares – just like the incident…..We cannot change that but we can be practical enough to make it more comfortable for the other half.
Insurance and Investments – I have always been too wary of issues like insurance plans – merely because of the complexities. But now I realise the importance of one. And yes, medical insurances alone don’t work. They work for short hospital stays, surgeries and basic medical conditions but often for long term treatments, they do not offer unlimited financial guarantee. I am not saying they are not important but there should and must be back-up arrangements as well.
As to insurances, along with long-term life covers, it is equally important to have insurances that can be withdrawn for emergency needs. To make the process of emergency withdrawal hassle-free, it is always important to always keep a company of a friendly insurance agent.
As to investments, it is wiser to have joint investments. It not only eases the burden on one partner but also make each other be aware of the investments. https://www.financialexpress.com/money/how-joint-investment-options-with-spouse-can-help-you-plan-your-finances-better/1159331/
It is wiser to have joint bank accounts where money can be withdrawn by either of the account holders. This helps not only in cases of death but also in sickness of one of the spouses when doing signature becomes challenging. In my case, my husband was always insistent on a joint account where either of us could sign. Though it did take some time for me to remember my signature but ultimately I could withdraw money. It also helped that he had made me do the original bank signature on a document and keep it safely. When I was really racking my brain as to what my signature was, I chanced upon the document and I remembered how my bank signature was. So, if you not in the habbit of withdrawing your money often, keep a sample of your signature. It helps.
All this is possible only if you do not have any major trust issues with your spouse !
In case you have children, think of a solid investment plan that can support their education, even in the absence of their parents – if at all. Frankly, both of us did not have much idea or thoughts about such investments. The idea of this was shared and well explained by my brother Kailash. Step by step he told me how we can actually plan a secure future for our children even in our absence.
Be organised, keep a record – I have always been clumsy. Comparitively, my husband was the more organised one. Though it was devastating when he was hospitalised and I was too nervous, it did help that he was organised and kept a record of different things. As I rummaged through the drawers, I found his black clutch purse which contained all the important documents – his ID proofs, warranty bills, bank papers etc. It was a huge relief for me. I carry that clutch purse with myself now (though I often forget where I last saw the purse 🙂 ) Also, he had a diary which contained important information – like the password for the home wifi connection. My father-in-law always stresses on the need to keep things at proper places – keys, wallets, old sim cards, papers, telephone book, visiting cards etc. Looking back I feel this is very important. By chance you are sick and unable to communicate, your family members would always know where to kind the keys to the locker, telephone number of a long-forgotten relative etc. And it is very vital to keep the medical documents in order – prescriptions, medical reports, medical insurance papers. I did have to rummage a lot when my husband was hospitalised because the doctors did need a track of his medical history.
It is an equally good habbit to maintain a written record in the form of a private diary containing passwords, important notes and information. My husband’s diary gave me a clue to his work related issues, the net banking password and important telephone numbers. It was very vital for me to get hold of those.
Inform and Be Informed – It is very important to always keep the family members well informed about the different policies, bank accounts, financial commitments etc. For the spouses, inform and be informed. So that if one passes away the handling of finances can be smooth. With my own life experience I’ve noticed that it is a wise decision to involve children in the information process. Children remember a lot of things that adults don’t. My husband had a good habbit of always trusting on his daughter and informing her about everything that is within her grip. As a result, after her Dad passed away she could recall and remember a lot many things – where her father has stacked away the cup cake moulds, what prompt should be given if the laptop shows a certain software malfunction, how to change the password, where was the shop from where he had ordered her school uniform etc. With my low memory, this came handy. Children are fantastic secret keepers as well, so you can trust them blindly. Only you should know how to place the story rightly! Now, I make it a point to always inform my children about different important documents, passwords etc.
Keep your liabilities low – If you both have a liability – a loan to repay, an EMI to give, plan it such that things can be manged even if a person is single. In the real life incident that I read, the lady underwent a huge crisis because the collective EMI that she had to pay post his death was more than she could afford with her single income. So, it is better to be judicious. Also, be aware with things like mortgages. We had a ring mortgaged. While he was in hospital, we repayed the entire amount. But after his death they wouldn’t give the ring back citing different legal clauses. So, for more than two months we are running aorund preparing affidavits, notorising documents. And we are yet to apprach the councillor for her approval of legal heir document. So for a mere 10,000 bucks we’ve ended up spending 4000 bucks on legal issues alone, so far. And we still have a long way to go. So, it is best to avoid liabilities that would pose challenges for your heirs.
Build foundations for a support structure – Not always, but what we do for others is often returned back to us in rich dividends. That my husband had a very good rapport with every ordinary human being – from the newspaper vendor to the milkman to the local shopkeeper, has actually helped us and still helping us in many ways. Simple, ordinary people come forward to support us, help us just because he was friendly with them. I remember the local cleaner coming up to me and tell, “He was very special. No one smiles at us but he did. What a beautiful soul ! Didi, if you ever need any help, I am there!” Yesterday I had a terrible backache and it made walking back from office a huge challenge. Everytime I would put down my feet, a pain would rush down my feet. As I was worrying, the local taxi driver – a friend of hours, brought in his taxi and drove me home very carefully. And he was the one who rushed us to the hospital day in , day out without taking a look at his watch. Having come for my husband’s funeral , he told just one thing, “ From the day his son turned a year old till he grew up, this man personally came and invited us for the birthday parties. I’ve never received so much of honour from anyone else!”
All these experiences make me believe that little attitudes of ours help build a solid foundation of support for the family. It is foolish to assume that every member of the extended family would support in the same way. It is much more crucial to build little links with social systems that make a part of our daily life.
Invest in human bonds – One thing that I have learnt in my own journey is that there is nothing greater than human bond. A good, solid friendship works a long way to support you in times of crisis. I have had blogger friends whom I’ve never seen providing their relentless support. I have seen my long-lost childhood buddies become my pillar of strength. I’ve had my brother-in-law , whose existence I did not know of turn into my brother. I’ve seen my husband’s ex senior office colleague become a father figure through his constant words of encouragement. And all have extended their unending support merely on the basis of a simple word called ‘humanity’’. When many of my closes people have walked away, people whom I hardly knew came in to support me. So, I believe that it is worth more than a thousand riches to invest in good human relationships! In times of crisis, nothing works better!!
Legacy of Values– If you have immovable assets, it is wise to have a will drafted even if you are younger. It is a myth that family members stay happily ever after. Property disputes have led siblings baying for each other’s blood. It can also lead to displacement of your own people from your own home. So, it is wiser to know who stands where even before catastrophe strikes. But assets, money, property is not what should be your primary concern. Success is not what you earn in your life-time, it is the legacy of values you leave behind. There was a time when my husband used to work in Sales. One day he came home flummoxed. “The other guys keep a margin for themselves even above the margin of the company. How can they do this?” That day I told him one thing, “I am proud of you. I would rather die a poor man’s wife than walk on the carpet of dishonesty”. He had held on to my hand for many moments. Cut to future.My daughter came back from school. “Mummy, we had a surprise test for History today. You know everyone was copying from their books. I didn’t. My freind asked me why I wasn’t copying so I told him that even if I fail, I would never copy. My Papa would never approve of it!”” It brought tears to my eyes. My husband died a poor man but he left behind unmatched riches in terms of values and upbringing in my children. I can vouch for the fact that if not anything, my children would never, ever be dishonest. When we die we take nothing with us. But what we leave is a part of us The legacy of values that we leave behind carries on for generations to come!
It isn’t a pleasant thing to talk about death and disaster. I used to be the last person to hear about such depressing issues. But I have realised that life is all about uncertaniities and it is wiser to be prepared than to be caught unawares. All that I have written here are my personal views. You may not agree to everything but as I have said before, it is my mission to create awareness. It is my own little tribute to my husband!