Kevin: "I don't know when we're going to get another chance."
Kevin Fansler’s parents both died in 2012. Their graceful departure plan was part of Kevin’s inspiration to get his shit together. The other inspiring factor was Rich Isaac, the man Kevin married in 2014. Kevin generously shares how his parents – his mother especially – engaged the family in planning for her death, and what happened when he and Rich sat down to plan their lives together.
“My parents had their obituaries written, the funeral home contacted, all before they passed. It was all in a box -- what they wanted in the newspaper, where they wanted to be cremated, their advance directives, all of it.
My mother had pulmonary disease and was on high oxygen, oxygen that was way more than they would give to someone who was supposedly going to recover and get out of there. And eventually the whole family was said, “Um, you know, that oxygen this is actually what's keeping you alive? You had said you didn't want a machine keeping you alive.”
She said, “I know, but I live in Missouri and they won't let me turn it off.”
“Well, we'll have to figure something out.”
My mom had a terminal illness, she had a ticking clock. We knew we had five years. The outcome of her disease was very well understood; the causes of it not so much. Once it's diagnosed, you have almost exactly five years to live; that's just how it works.
She had a lot of time to think about it and plan. Each time one of the siblings would visit, she would say, "Okay, we're going to talk about this."
"No, no, we don't WANT to talk about this, we want to have our visit with you and continue living in denial."
And she'd say, "No, we really need to talk about this because I don't know when we're going to get another chance." It was hard, they were hard, hard conversations.
"What she was afraid of was missing her kids and letting us down in some way, so she wanted to prepare us for what was to come."
You have to think of it as the next phase. We don't really know what happens. My parents had their faith and had completely bought in to idea of an afterlife. And all six kids rejected their faith, but Mom's solution was to get pledges that we would visit her at her new home in the afterlife.
She worked with seniors most of her late career, so she knew what was coming. She wasn't afraid of it at all, what she was afraid of was missing her kids and letting us down in some way, so she wanted to prepare us for what was to come.
In 2014, Kevin and Rich got married. Their finances were complicated, Kevin was carrying debt and Rich had an inheritance. Together, they decided that a pre-nuptial agreement was the way to go; they’d both be protected. Since legal gay marriage was still new, they wanted to be sure they were protected in any eventuality.
“Certainly with gay marriage being a new thing, we wanted all the protection possible. We were already working with a lawyer – he asked us if we had a will.
And we thought, "Let's get this done now." But there were so many follow up questions. Nothing hard: Who do you want to be your beneficiaries? When are their birthdays and social security numbers? We weren’t prepared.
It's wasn’t an agonizing decision -- of course I wanted to share my things with my siblings, or with my spouse, to have him make all the decisions. And then the lawyer asked, “What if your spouse predeceases you?”
If you haven't talked these things through, you're in the lawyer’s office while your partner is saying, "God no! I wouldn't want to be resuscitated in the hospital!”
And you’re thinking, “I don't know what I think about that.” We had to go away and talk about it.
"You have to accept the fact that this is happening, you have to talk about it. It doesn't have to be a super loaded conversation. It can just be, “Let's get our shit in order because it has to be done at some point. Let's do it now."
With any of this you have to trust your partner. When it's tied up with preparation for marriage, you have to learn how to communicate about these issues. It’s just like what happened with my parents. You have to accept the fact that this is happening, you have to talk about it. It doesn't have to be a super loaded conversation. It can just be, “Let's get our shit in order because it has to be done at some point. Let's do it now.”
Don't think of it as this grim conversation. It's actually full of love. You're trying to figure out what your partner would do if you weren't there. You're trying to figure out what your family will do if you're not there. That is a loving exercise.