One of the things on a deployment checklist for the active duty service member is establishing or updating a will and a power of attorney. These legal documents ensure that if something happens to the service member, the law knows who to contact, who had authority to make financial and medical decisions, and even who gets custody of the kids (if there are kids), especially in the case of a divorced family.
But how many of us spouses have these documents in place in our own families? It’s so easy to be focused on our spouse that we make ourselves the secondary concern. Not because we think we’re unimportant, or others treat us that way, but because the list of things that need to be taken care of. The lists are long and sometimes on a short time table, leaving the spouse staying home to put everything towards the military member in the forefront. The reality that there could be a time where we’re in the hospital, injured, sick, or even the worst possibility death, doesn’t always sink in.
These scenerios couldn’t have been any more clear or real like they are right now as I lie in a hospital bed.
When my husband left for deployment, I had been living diagnosed with seizures for barely eight months. Yet with the medicine prescribed, I’d keep living the life I had and didn’t ever bother to think of putting a plan in place in case I needed to go to the hospital.
With four kids at home, my main concern and focus was on their needs. Getting them to and from track practice, birthday parties, after school clubs, even what seemed simple at the time (boy scouts and music rehearsals) was now not so simple. All those commitments my kids had became more difficult to juggle because now I needed to figure out who could help, how much they could help, and the extent of time others’ help would be needed.
I had no plan in place. After calling my doctor to explain what was going on, she wanted me at the emergency room immediately. But all I could think of was not freaking my kids out. Their dad wasn’t here to fill the role of taxi driver or dinner chef that I play everyday. The last thing I wanted was for them to feel afraid and alone. For my kids, my diagnosis was incredibly scary because all they’ve known their whole life is that my mom died from a seizure the month after I graduated high school. Last year when I was diagnosed, they connected ‘what if that happens to us?‘ My doctor was aware of my situation and savvy enough to know I wasn’t coming until I had a plan in place–a plan I should have developed 4 months ago.
In my world, being an independent person and reaching out for help is equal to pulling my eyelashes out one by one. In fact I’d rather go through labor again with no drugs–that’s easier for me. But my kids need and deserve for me to check my pride.
I reached out to two girlfriends. One could drive me to the hospital 45 minutes away and get my kids to and from, while the other could step in for anything else that came up, or in case the first couldn’t help at anytime. As soon as I arrived, I went straight into a room. My doctor left notes of my medical history and recent developments. What I thought would be one day, at most, turned into three days and I still don’t know when I’m leaving. But what I do know is that I now have people and have developed a small plan.
My plan will need some tweaking. It will need another person or two, and it’ll need things like remembering to leave a credit card behind for my older kids to use in emergency situations, like this, and it’ll even require me to finally get a power of attorney, advance detective, and update my will.
This was a great wake-up call for me. It’s okay to be independent, its okay to be strong, it’s okay to be self-sufficient, but it’s not okay to not have a plan in place. Someone needs to know what to do with your fur babies, what to do with your human babies, even things such as where a spare key is hidden or how to get ahold of your deployed spouse.
You may never need someone to jump in and bring you to the hospital, or take your cat to their home, or pick your kids up from soccer, but in case you do please put together a plan.
Do you have a plan in place for yourself? What advice would you give others who don’t?
Posted by Joanna Bradshaw, military spouse and mother