In the last week since Tasha passed, we've all stepped up, their Pueblo West friends, doing what we can to help.
Tasha and Bret were ardent Christians. We know their two pastors and their best friends. We're the newbie friends, but she and Bret's friends go back 3 decades.
Bret and Tash talked with each other about her impending death. They knew. They discussed it. No shadows. Bret, right now, is devastated beyond words and all of us neighborhood friends are doing stuff behind the scenes to ease his burden without him knowing. A gift to which he's not indebted. A real gift is just quiet things, things the recipient never considers or probably never sees. It's in the background. Like prayer done in the closet. Not a proud thing that needs acknowledgment, but an anonymous, private thing. A help to the distressed, the sad and life-weary.
This whole story, being present when Tasha passed in her husband's arms – bloody awful painful to witness – made us revisit things a spouse has to do after their life-partner dies. No one wants to think about this, but we can do so – everyone can – in a good light. Think of it as a gift to your wife or husband.
When my dad passed in 1984, back in the dark ages, my mom kept his name on the bills because she had no credit rating of her own. Because he was gone, Mom thought her utilities would be cut off though they always paid their bills on time. Four years passed before she had the nerve to tell them.
One lesson I learned as a female is to always have credit cards in your name. I have done so as an earning-wage teen for 40 years. It's nothing against Stan, but everyone should have credit in his or her own name. It's just prudent because of how laws are.
For the men, teach your loved ones how to do the basics around your home. Because Tasha got really sick in these last 6 months, Bret hired a lot of the yard- and housework done. He knows how to BBQ as we discovered in neighborhood dinner parties, do laundry, feed the cats, where the due-bills are kept. Bret can cook for himself.
One thing we found is that us girls always go to food to feel like we're contributing something useful. About 2 weeks before Tasha died, Bret sat in our living room and said people were inundating him with food. Co-workers and neighbors gave too much food. It was us girls' go-to thing to help. But we had a lesson to learn. Ask your friend where he or she needs help. Fill in those gaps and don't assume. No one needs 14 apple pies.
Bret could do his own thing whether it was to eat out, come over for a bite, cook for himself, eat nothing or hire stuff done. It needed to be his choice. Bret is better equipped than most of us in how to survive a spouse's death.
Stan stepped up. Did things I couldn't do, such was her death anticipated, but not so soon. They had a special bond because he died in 1969 and shared with her things Bret and I couldn't. She could probably talk more openly with him than with me because Stan looks at death pragmatically as a Christian and I'm still focused on it as a heart-ripper. So they talked, and I know Tasha took comfort in this. It was Stan's gift to her. We all play a part in each other's lives, different pieces of the whole.
Because Stan and I've worked and lived together 24/7 for the past 20 years, we thought we were in a unique position to know everything, the ins and outs of our lives. We found we weren't. Frankly, I thought we'd always be there for each other, but Tasha's death says that sometimes, despite best efforts, a spouse can't.
Stan generally knows where everything is here in our home, but doesn't know everything. Things he needs to know and didn't, to keep this household moving, viable, he needs to learn.
On the other side, I had no idea where our life insurance and wills were kept. Previously, it wasn't a "thing", but maybe it is. No clue how to work and access some things to do with our business and the irrigation system and contact our book publishers. I have no idea who to call to tack down our roof shingles (that we had to do 2 weeks ago) and that guy that always comes in a heartbeat for everything-plumbing. Stan knows the people that won't screw him and will do a day's work for an honest day's wage. Stan's got all of that in his little mental book of contacts that's somewhere in his files. Right now I couldn't find that to save my life. He does all that.
These are "gift" discussions to have with your better half. When you die, family and friends are going to be wallowing, rightfully, in the wake of your death. If they don't know how to do what you did for household responsibilities, give them that gift of knowledge, now. When things are sunny and bright and then you can move onto other stuff.
So when this new book I've been writing for over a year and a half, spending 10-12 hours on it 24/7 is finished next month, this is my priority. I would not have Stan in the throes of grief trying to figure out how to pay the bills I pay, where to buy the dog food, who the vet is, when to put on the lawn's weed and feed, where stored vitamins are kept, know when to turn off the irrigation system when we get that oh-so-precious-rain, how to do laundry without his undies taking on a "colorful" hue, when to pay county taxes in advance and a potload of other things I do behind the scenes. It is one of the best gifts you can give your spouse.
Art Bell, the originator of Coast To Coast AM, said that Ramona had paid all utilities 3 months in advance of her death. She must have known without saying anything that her time was close, as did Tasha. Ramona died unexpectedly in 2006 of severe asthma while they were traveling. She'd felt ill, walked into their RV's living room and died. Just straight out died sometime in the night. Art was left to deal with it, blind-sided. Ramona knew or at last suspected her time was short and acted accordingly.
So did Tasha. Tasha and Bret had come home from a trip literally the day before on Sunday. Her color was awful due to cancer-induced liver failure. Us six neighborhood girls had planned for lunch that week. We knew Tasha was thinner and weaker, but respected her wishes to keep life normal, so lunch it was, just a regular girls' time out. Bret said it was her aim to maintain life as it should be, right to the end. She did. Then we got that call from Bret Monday to come help. "T" didn't make it. Right now, it sucks beyond words.
Stan and I are giving that gift to each other this summer, this cross-training thing. I'm getting my new book ready for publication. Stan's readying his July (sold out) Colorado Springs Prophecy Conference lectures. When we are done with these in August these things mentioned are our top priorities. Peace of mind beats exquisite gifts of jewelry, luxury cars and the loveliest vacations on the books. It is the best gift of love.