Before I became a mother, I never really thought much about my own death. Of course, I knew it would eventually happen; but it wasn’t ever anything I worried about. The potential of dying didn’t keep me up at night.
That all changed the first time I held my daughter in my arms; the first time I looked at this little girl and realized, “She’s mine. And I’m hers.”
I knew I had to stick around for that. I had to stick around for her.
And suddenly, the fear of not being able to gripped me like nothing ever had before.
Ever since, I’ve started doing a lot of things with the thought of just in case running through the back of my mind. I write letters to my daughter on an annual, and sometimes monthly, basis — just outlining all the little ways she has changed and grown, and the joy she has brought to my life. I put together photo books every year — a laborious project that takes 100+ hours by the time everything is said and done. But I do it because I want to ensure she always has those memories, even if I’m not around to share them with her. And of course, securing life insurance, drafting my will, and asking friends to take her if anything ever happened to me were all high on my list of priorities — things I took care of within weeks of her adoption finalization.
In the back of my mind, all of this is fairly normal — I’m just checking boxes to ensure my girl will always be cared for and know how loved she is, even if I can’t be the one there telling her so. But when I talk to friends, and particularly when I explain my reasoning for doing all of this, they look at me like I’m crazy.
This “just in case I die” planning isn’t something they partake in. And so I can’t help but wonder why it’s a fear that’s so constantly on my mind; especially when it doesn’t seem to be something that fazes the people I love at all. I never obsessed about death before, so why is it something I am so constantly planning for now that I’m a mother?
I think part of it stems from the fact that I’m not just a mother — I’m a single mother, grappling with the knowledge that if anything were to ever happen to me, my daughter wouldn’t have another parent there to fall back on. Then there is the fact that my little girl is adopted, meaning she already lost one parental figure — even though she was (and is) still too young to fully process the depths of that loss.
And I’m sure it also has something to do with how desperately I yearned to be mother, and how long infertility left me fearful that chance would never come. Now that I have it, now that this little girl is here, depending on me to love and raise her, I am forever afraid of failing in that role.
Of not being there when she needs me the most.
Honestly, I kind of always thought all parents grappled with these same fears. That all parents planned for, and worried about, a time when they might not be able to be there for their kids. It wasn’t until a recent conversation I had with a friend that I was left to consider this concern of mine might actually be a bit morbid and unfounded; especially given that there is nothing wrong health-wise to make me think my time on this earth is short.
I don’t generally think of myself as a morbid person. I’m not depressed, and until very recently, my personal experience with death was pretty limited. But the truth is, planning for the possibility actually makes me feel better. Checking the boxes and creating contingencies for my girl, just in case, makes me feel more at ease somehow.
So maybe it’s not normal, or something all parents do. But the reality is, parents do die and kids do get left behind. Maybe none of us want to think about that, and maybe none of the things I do would really make much of a difference to my girl, were she ever to be stuck facing that loss.
But is it really so strange to want to try to do something anyway? Something that might be able to ease her pain, should I not be the one here to hold her through that heartbreak?
Just in case I was the one who had to say goodbye?More On