unpleasant surprises

“Liz writes about the aftermath of her brother-in-law’s death”:http://mamamusings.net/archives/2003/12/20/how_to_live_life.php and formulates a simple rule:

bq. Live so that no one you love
will be unpleasantly surprised
by what they find when you die.

I have a bit of experience with that myself, though probably not as directly as what she’s going through.

Seven years ago one of my co-workers at the children’s museum died in a car crash, which I think I’ve written about here before. But after the coma, after her death and the funeral and after everything started to get back to normal at the museum, we discovered that her files, her records of all the projects she was working on (mostly marketing stuff) — were a mess. No one could understand her filing system, such as it was, and most of her work was just in piles on her desk back in the tiny office at the far back of the museum.

What I learned from that is that one should endeavor to leave one’s work so that anybody can pick it up if you get hit by a bus tomorrow. Needless to say to anyone who’s seen my desk either at work or at home, I don’t always live up to that.

The other experience that she brings to mind is strikingly more unpleasant….

For those who don’t know, my father died when I was eight years old. It was sudden, or at least it seemed sudden to me. (He’d been in the hospital once before the heart attack, on my 7th birthday.)

I’d never thought much about money, or class, or how well off or not we were, before he died. We owned a house; Mom stayed home; we didn’t have the nicest things, but we had a VCR when they were still a luxury, and an Atari. (The VCR we had for years and years, but I don’t remember what happened to the Atari. Mom and Elizabeth still live in the house.)

But after…money became suddenly and painfully important, and remained so. The details are hazy, and some things I do remember I don’t think are appropriate here. But I know that we managed to keep it all together partially because our house had a mother-in-law house which provided for some income, and because my grandparents helped us.

That uneasy feeling of the floor suddenly falling out of the world…knowing just enough to know that we weren’t secure, but not so much that I could actually understand, and being too young to have anything to do about it anyway.

It still makes me feel queasy.