By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Thank you to everyone who responded to my post about the passing of my husband, Alan.  It has been a trying few weeks, but your notes and good wishes made a bad situation just a bit brighter.  I do not plan to dwell on this subject, and I promise that in my next blog I will return to writing about fun subjects like why we have national donut day or rant about what is going to happen to the Rose Bowl now that the Pac 12 is the Pac 4.  But today I want to share some thoughts about my experience that might be of help to you.

As regular readers of this blog know, last fall my friend Pat Miles Zimmerman and I published a book that built on her experience after her husband died.  Over the two years that it took to complete the book I listened to the widows’ experiences and read the advice from professionals in an interested, but perhaps detached, way.  After all, I was not a widow.  I did learn some tips from the chapters on legal and financial issues, but being the Type A that I am, I already had my affairs in order, had a great estate attorney and a trusted financial advisor of 20 years.  The other chapters, dealing with more emotional issues I read with interest, but could not relate to them.  Now, all of the sadness and sentiment of being widowed has hit me full force, and it is a gut-wrenching experience. So, here is some advice, that I strongly encourage you to consider.

First, what we leave behind for our surviving spouse can greatly influence the grieving process.  Because I had everything in order, in the few days Alan and I had after his diagnosis we were able to spend them talking about our life together, our family, and what he wanted for my future.  I did not have to scurry to collect passwords, bank account information or try to understand our investment strategies.  This has been invaluable.  I have read that losing a spouse is the worst kind of grief because it affects every single thing you do from the moment you wake up to the time you go to sleep.  It has been much harder than I anticipated, but at least I am afforded the luxury of simply missing him.  I cannot imagine that hurt being exacerbated by stress over not knowing how to pay bills or how to access his iPhone.  I urge everyone to get your affairs in order ahead of a crisis – it will pay great dividends in your emotional well-being and to some extent, help in the grieving process.  Last week one of Alan’s closest friends prepared a binder for his wife that contains all of the pertinent information she will need when he passes.  He told her, “This is for Alan.”  It touched me that Alan’s spirit left behind such a thoughtful, and practical, gesture.

Second, the legacy we leave behind is greatly influenced by how we treat everyone with whom we come into contact.  I have been overwhelmed by the beautiful cards and letters that friends have sent me, some relating stories about Alan and how they met him.  But I have been particularly touched by the employees at our club that have reached out to me expressing their sorrow at his passing.  They all said the same thing: he was always nice to them.  As one of the staff said, “I will miss him.  He was a good man.”  His niceness extended to others who worked with us. Two days after Alan died our air conditioner experienced a problem.  Ken, our regular A/C technician came to fix it and asked me where Alan was.  When he learned of his death, Ken got tears in his eyes and gave me a big hug.  He said, “He was always so good to me – made sure that I had water when it was hot and lent a hand when I needed it.” It makes me happy that the legacy of being good to people is also part of what Alan left behind.

Finally, maybe it pays to leave something a little quirky behind just to make your loved one smile.  I have gradually been going through Alan’s things, distributing sentimental items to the family, particularly his two sets of golf clubs which our two grandsons now possess.  I know that would make him very happy.  But he also left behind some curious items, among them 13 (!) new golf gloves, most still in the original packaging.  All I can imagine is that with all of his trips to the PGA Superstore he occasionally felt the need to purchase something, so he settled on golf gloves.  I had to laugh when I found them, and now our son-in-law won’t have to buy golf gloves for many years to come. I loved that Alan is still making me laugh, even after he’s gone.

Again, thank you for reaching out and all of your nice comments.  I know that I will eventually create a new normal.  I believe that life can still be beautiful, even when there’s broken parts.

21 comments on “WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND

  1. Thank you Suzanne for sharing your story last night with our book club. It was impactful. Today, after I had shared about the book on Facebook, I friend several states away reached out to share about a family member going through the dying process. The ability to have the discussion, and share the book, was meaningful.

    • Pam, thank you so much for your comment. I truly believe people can avoid adding extra stress and anxiety to the grieving process by preparing ahead of time and I will stay on my soapbox about it! I enjoyed the meeting last night – hopefully I can meet you in person some day.

  2. This was so good! My first husband was only 32 when he passed away from cancer. Although he had a construction business and we had two young children (7&3) we didn’t have much financially and no computer or phone passwords to deal with. I took care of all the household and business bills, etc, so it was a much less complex issue for me than it would be today. I have friends who have never paid the bills and have no idea what’s what…they need that book.
    Anyway…thinking of you often!❣️

    • Thanks, Carol. Losing your husband at such a young age and with young children must have been horrible. What a wonderful life you have made for yourself and your children. I also have friends who are clueless when it comes to finances and I’m on my soapbox with them about getting educated before anything happens. Really appreciate your kind words. xo

    • Thanks, Lin! I told him I’d keep the piano and maybe start playing again. May need a lesson from you!! So excited to see you and give you big hugs❤️

  3. I bought 2 of your books when it came out since we are at that age now.Seems that we are losing more friends than we are gaining. So just a reminder to keep making friends to even it out. I only meet Alan once or twice but I feel like I knew him from reading your blog. You are so spot on to be ready to lose your spouse and share information. Take care my friend and my prayers are with you.
    Love, Sharon

  4. Sending you a big hug and thank you for sharing this poignant blog. I shared your tears over your loss & heartache, applaud you both getting your affairs in order ahead of an immediate need, & chuckled at the “ lot of golf gloves”. I love reading about his legacy as “ that of a kind, respectful, and loving man.” It really doesn’t get any better than that. ❤️

  5. Dear Suz,

    The similarities of our stories are somewhat eerie. When I met you we had the same glasses and from time to time the same shoes. 😊 I wish I had met Alan. He was obviously a well liked and loved man. I’m so sorry you are dealing with the grief of losing your amazing husband. It is so very painful. While the grief never goes away, I can tell you that as time goes on the edges soften and you will find some peace. I’m here if you need anything.❤️

    • Hah! I remember the glasses and shoes – and the day I wore one of each color and we giggled like schoolgirls. Fun times! Thanks for your encouraging note. I know that things will get better with time. I just need to sit with it for a while.xoxo

  6. My heart is still breaking for you, dear Suzanne!
    I purchased and read your book. I will read it again and get busy. We’ve been married 60+ years and Mark has always handled all of our financial matters.
    It’s not that I’m not bright, it was just easier.
    I’m ready to change.
    When things settle down, let’s get together! Love you!

    • Thanks, Janet. I will be a “good” nag for you – get things organized ahead of time. It really has made a big difference. Would love to see you when things are a bit less hectic.

  7. Hey Suze….This is your cousin Sue (Sparrow). Just read this and my heart is broken for you. I’ve been there, it’s tough but with time, life does get good again….just different. I had no idea this was going on and I’m so sorry. I’m here for you….always have been but we’ve all sadly lost touch. I think you have my contacts…don’t want to put them here 🙄. If not, Bob has my number I think. Take care and know you’re on my mind and in my heart. ❤️

  8. Dear Suzanne,

    I didn’t have the privilege of knowing Alan, but I can just imagine what a wonderful friend and partner he was. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family as your deal with your grief. I have a copy of your book, and I plan to get busy making certain my Allan (Andy) and I have made the necessary preparations. I miss seeing you, dear friend. Betty Ann Maline

    • Thanks, Betty Ann. It truly has made a big difference to have had everything lined up beforehand, so I encourage you to take that step! Missing you too and hoping life is good to you in NC. Please let me know if you ever get back this way – would love to see youl.

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