Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Slice of Life: Giving and Losing

Yesterday I donated Jack’s unused syringes of blood thinner, compression stockings, and medications to his hemotologist, vascular surgeon, and primary doctor. It was harder than I expected.
            I’d called in advance to make sure the doctors could use them, since I didn’t want to throw away all these supplies unless I had to. I would always rather give things away than add them to the landfill. And all the doctors said yes.
            My first stop was the vascular doctor’s office, in the hospital where Jack had spent many days. I felt okay emotionally until I got off the elevator and walked down the hallway to the doctor’s office. There were the gurneys lined up in the hall, waiting for patients. There was the water fountain where Jack had drunk when he was last there for the doctor to check for clots in his collateral veins. We’d thought it was good news that no clots were found, without considering the continuing question: what was causing Jack’s edema? Sadness built up before I walked into the office, where a young woman was unfamiliar with my situation and had to ask a supervisor. It’s harder to hand them over to someone who didn’t know Jack, so this young woman’s “I’m sorry for your loss” feels pro forma.
            It’s easier at the hemotologist’s office, perhaps because it’s a new space. But also because the hemotologist’s office manager is sincerely sorry about Jack, and I know she’s seen him many times and that he wasn’t just another patient. And at his primary doctor’s office, I feel I’m among old friends – she’s my primary doctor as well. Everyone knew Jack and cared about him. Our doctor even came out and gave me a few minutes between her patients.
            I feel like I am donating a piece of Jack, and I want to know who will get what he had, what their life will be like, that they will live a long time. But I also feel Jack’s loss in the act of giving. He no longer needs his pills, his compression stockings, his syringes. They will no longer be in our home, now just my home.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Slice of Life Tuesday

It’s getting harder to do the phone calls and fill out the forms. I don’t want to be reminded that he’s no longer here. I want to remain in a time where his presence still exists.

In the immediate aftermath of my husband’s death, pulling together all the details of what had to be done, who had to be notified, making phone calls all gave me something to do. As I’ve noted, it was a kind of distraction, and also proof that I was holding myself together. Oh, there were signs that this was hard. After every phone call when I had to say the words, “he died,” I had to sit very still for several minutes after hanging up, readjusting my emotional equilibrium, letting the past and present mingle in a way I could digest.

So today I called the company for one of his IRA accounts. One of its forms said I had to provide a death certificate with cause of death – and as far as I could tell, there was no “cause of death” on the certificate I had. The benefits specialist I spoke to said there had to be a cause of death, and she mentioned possible obstructions, like if the death required an investigation for, say, a murder. How would I get this more detailed death certificate? The benefits specialist suggested calling the funeral home that had provided the certificates I had.
I called that person and was told that New York City does not put a specific cause of death on the official certificate because that is considered confidential  information. But, he said, look at item 6 on the certificate I had, and sure enough, in small type, it said that my husband’s death had been due to natural causes. And when I called back the benefits specialist, she said that was exactly what she needed. Whew! What had felt like a huge roadblock wilted into nothing. 

Yet another Slice of Life Tuesday. Read more slices over at Two Writing Teachers,

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Slice of Life Tuesday


There are many boring, yet distracting, things a widow must do: notify Social Security, notify any financial institutions, notify insurance companies, notify credit card companies, things like that. Our New York Times home delivery was in my husband’s name, therefore he got the e-mails of special events and special offers. If I wanted to get those, I had to call the paper, explain the situation, change the e-mail address, change the user name and password. Time consuming, yes, but it’s something concrete to focus on and separate myself the situation requiring it.
            Today I went to the Social Security office. In order to claim my husband’s last Social Security check, which had been intercepted by the Treasury Department when it learned of his death but which I’d been informed I am entitled to, I had to produce the actual marriage certificate, his birth certificate, and his death certificate. Copies would not do; they had to be the originals. I actually had all these documents, and I didn’t want to send the originals off in the mail – they could get lost; they might not get returned. So I went to my local Social Security office.
            When I entered the building, the security man at the door asked what I needed. I said, “I’m going to the fourth floor.” He asked what I needed to do there (to make sure I was going to the right place?), so I had to tell him, “I’m applying for widow’s benefits.” It’s getting harder to say it, not easier. He said the obligatory, “I’m sorry for your loss,” but he looked a bit taken aback.
            Upstairs, there was a touch screen receptionist, asking my purpose and then spitting out a number, which was called about an hour and 45 minutes later. Fortunately, I had brought a book. When my number was finally called, I was directed to window 5, where, behind bullet-proof glass like you find in banks, say a young man who remembered talking to me on the phone two weeks before. He looked at my documents, recorded unknown bits of information on his computer (I couldn’t see his screen), xeroxed my documents, and that was that. I will get that extra check. I will get $20 more in my Social Security payment each month. Now on to my husband’s pension, which I will continue to receive.