The last thing I want to think about is death. I don’t even want to write about it. But last week, an allergic reaction landed me in the emergency room. As my throat was closing, a triage nurse asked, “Is (blank) your emergency contact?” As scary as it was, since no one was allowed in with me, I managed to croak out. “Um, what?”
I don’t think my first university boyfriend, who I haven’t seen or talked to for more than two decades, would be the last person I would want to see, or the person I would want making decisions for me. Sure, we broke up on friendly terms, but I couldn’t imagine him getting a call like, “Hi. This is an emergency. We have you down as the emergency contact for Rebecca Eckler.” I’m sure my ex would be just thrilled.
I’ve thought about death a lot recently, as I am assuming many mothers have. It’s in our faces now, every day, all day. As my actual boyfriend raced me to the hospital, I texted my daughter’s father with a cryptic text; “If anything should happen to me, make sure Rowan and Holt remain in close contact. That’s all I want.”
Because my daughter and my son have different fathers, I worried who would make sure they remained close siblings if I weren’t around. Why my daughter’s father? It’s simply because I trust him to get things done. Every time I got on a plane, pre-Covid, I would always text my daughter’s father.
“If anything should happen to me, 30 percent goes to (blank) and 30 percent goes to (blank) and 40 percent goes to (blank.)” Each time, he’d text back, “Beck, you know this won’t hold up. This is not a real will.” And he’s a lawyer!
Still, I would text him back, “Show this if needed: Dear Judge, this is my modern-day will. Please listen to these instructions.” I figured, in my non-expert brain about wills and estate planning, that I had sent enough of these, that surely a judge, if it came to that, would have to take into consideration all my modern and repeated communication.
Since I’m in my forties and my boyfriend’s in his fifties, sometimes I introduce him to people as, “He’s my in case of emergency person.” I think that says a lot, bumping him up to “emergency contact” status.
My daughter is old enough to be my emergency contact now, but what mother wants to be a burden on their own children? Instead, my wish is to die with a caregiver, in paradise. (However, my daughter is the only person in the world who knows the password to get into my phone.)
During my hospital visit, because I had nothing to do but think, I thought of all the places and times I’ve put down names as an emergency contact; form for schools, school trips, camps, all those activities, all those birthday party venues, all medical appointments, and, yes, the hospital.
When you’re a single parent too, one of the first things you teach — or should teach — your children is when and how to call 911, and force them to remember your home address. You do find yourself saying things to your children like, “If you shake mommy and she’s not waking up, call 911 and tell them you can’t wake your mommy.” Or, “If mommy falls down the stairs and she’s not moving, call 911.” It’s a must-have conversation, since there may not be any adults around.
“I don’t think my first university boyfriend, who I haven’t seen or talked to for more than two decades, would be the last person I would want to see, or the person I would want making decisions for me if I were to die.”
I couldn’t put down my daughter’s father as an emergency contact, while I was at the hospital, because he lives in another city. I couldn’t put my parents down, because they like to travel — pre-Covid — so it would be hard for them to get back for an emergency.
I trust my boyfriend blindly, and I know he’ll do the right thing; making sure to keep my children close, even though he’s not their fathers. I didn’t even think to ask him if this was alright with him. (Although it totally was!)
For 1/100th of a second, in the ER, I wondered if I should be putting down my son’s father’s name, but we have a somewhat volatile relationship, which is getting better, thankfully, but I wasn’t sure if he liked me that day, so I’m not sure I’d want him to make any major decisions about my life. Yes, I honestly thought that in my Benadryl-state!
I, too, have plans for my own death and admittedly, my plans don’t include ending up in a hospital or even leaving all that much for my children. They will be taken care of…enough. But I plan to spend my money on, well, me. My plan, again, knock on wood, is to end up dying at the Four Seasons in Maui, with a caregiver who lives with me. If I have to use every last cent to live there for a few months as I die, so be it. I’ve made everyone in my family aware of my wishes, multiple times, including my children.
My hospital stay made me think that I desperately needed to follow up on every single form I’ve filled out in my entire life to update my emergency contacts. Because your emergency contact isn’t always the person you love or are in a relationship with. For example, at times, I have put my best friend’s name down as an emergency contact, for field trips, for my kids. Upon thinking about it, I’ve never told her I’ve done this, but that’s my next phone call.
I’m assuming mistake number one when it comes to wills, right after not having one, is feeling pressured into putting down a name you aren’t 100 percent comfortable with. And then I thought, “Oy! Am I, unknowingly, the emergency contact for other people?”
“Why do we have emergency contacts? Ultimately, it’s because we will all need—at one point or another—a trustworthy person to represent us if we are incapable of doing so ourselves.” I read off a a funeral home website. I know. How optimistic! Not dire at all!
“If possible, it’s best to have at least TWO emergency contacts…It’s best to select a person(s) who will follow through with your wishes, even if they don’t personally agree with what you’ve decided….Too often, emergency contacts are unprepared for the tasks they face, or they are left with a mess to unravel…”
How true! I had never thought the person on the other end would need to know if it’s okay, on their end, to be an emergency contact. For example, I know most people, pre-Covid, want the Emergency Exit aisle while flying. Not me! I’d be terrible — just terrible — mostly because I likely just popped a sleeping pill and would be passed out. So, I do not want to be in an emergency aisle, ever, and neither should anyone on a plane with me. I digress…
The funeral home offered, “Six things That Your Emergency Contacts Need to Know.”
And it’s…a lot. And it’s important.
These include where to find important documents, like your legal will, birth and marriage certificates, deeds, titles, insurance policies, powers of attorney, health care directives, funeral planning, creditors, passwords, distribution of assets, heirlooms, furniture, and wishes for medical treatment. (Again, hire me a caregiver and send me to Maui with an IV drip of morphine/tequila — I’m not picky.)
I also read that one should ask a person if they are willing to care for your pet, too. I did think, “Who is going to take care of my dog?” before I remembered…I don’t have a dog. At least all my emergency contacts/beneficiaries have now been updated.
I suppose it would nice to see my old university boyfriend, just not in a reunion in triage.
Have you updated your will? If so, how did you choose you emergency contact?