Please don’t stop reading.  I promise that, despite the title, what follows is not a downer.  Rather, it’s an observation, a practical consideration, and maybe even a little bit funny.

What precipitated my seemingly ghoulish reflection was an actual conversation I had with my husband, a semi-retired attorney, who, for the past three years has been vowing that this year would be the last.  However, you did notice that the prefix is still attached to the verb.

But before I relate the conversation, let me set the scene.  One recent morning, I took a risk and stepped into his home office.  “Why a risk?” you might ask.  Because upon crossing the threshold there is imminent danger of tripping over stacks of file folders piled on the floor, slipping on fallen pens, and vertigo as you observe the chaos surrounding his person as he sits on the small loveseat, diligently engrossed.  He is unaware that our little dog, Sam, has been busy removing crumpled papers from his overflowing waste basket and turning them into confetti.

I, of course, notice this immediately, as I silently strategize about the best way to maneuver the vacuum cleaner so as not to disturb the piles.  Forgetting why I put my life on the line in the first place, my focus is now on the waste basket. And so the dialogue begins:

“Ahem, honey…”  He looks up.  “I can’t help but notice that the waste basket is brimming over, and the dog is engaged in an arts and crafts project.”

“Oh, right,” he says.  “If you would get me a garbage bag, I’ll empty it right now.”

Get him a garbage bag? My feminist dander is rising.  I know he’s busy, but he will eventually take a break, and then he can get his own #S@&%*! garbage bag!

Fortunately, however, before I go on a rant about liberation, it occurs to me that in fact, he may have no clue as to where to locate said item.   And so instead I kindly say, without a hint of sarcasm, “Sweetheart, if I should die before you, let me show you where the garbage bags are kept.”

I like to think we have a modern marriage, one in which responsibilities are shared.  And in many ways, we do.  For example, in matters financial, where my ability with numbers is limited to simple addition – with a calculator – I’m most appreciative that my darling is able to guide us through the big decisions.

But in matters of the household, despite my emancipation, I’m afraid we revert to more traditional roles.   And when the time arrives that I must relinquish my role as domestic goddess, I do want him to be prepared.   So to ensure a somewhat easier transition, for I know that he will miss me terribly, I’m compiling a list of need-to-know items.  As I am still very much here, l refer to it as my version of a living will.


  • how to load the dishwasher
  • how to sew a button on your shirt
  • how to put the draw string back in your sweat pants after you pull too hard and yank it out
  • where we keep the light bulbs
  • how to change a light bulb
  • where we keep the dog food
  • where to put the recycle-ables
  • how to replace the ink in your printer
  • where to look when you can’t find your glasses
  • where to look when you can’t find the TV remote
  • where to find a new tube of toothpaste or a fresh bar of soap
  • how to reboot the computer
  • how to order stuff on Amazon
  • how to clean the lint trap in the dryer
  • that there is a lint trap in the dryer
  • that there is a dryer, and a washer
  • where we keep the toilet paper…

This list is by no means exhaustive.  It is a work in progress, to be added to as other gaps in knowledge become apparent.  I know this is not a happy topic, but there is a great deal of comfort in knowing that after I’m gone, my darling will be able to replace that empty cardboard cylinder with a brand new roll.

Perhaps this essay will inspire other couples to compile a list of their own.  I certainly hope so.  In the meantime, while I am still alive, let me not forget to show him where the garbage bags are.

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