A different kind of love letter

Long ago, before texting and instant messaging, your acid washed jeans wearing, Sassy magazine reading friend Kara was a fan of notes. Bubble letters, fancy folds, secret hand-offs in the hallway before class—my teenage years produced Caboodles full of handwritten notebook paper scratches, professing to LYLAS and BFF to my friends, even the occasional TLF to my current crush.

Once I met the true love of my life, for real this time, I came to treasure the handwritten notes and cards he gave to me. I keep every single one.

When I’m reading a book or watching a movie, I love when a character is so touched by something he or she reads that they pause and hold it to their heart. Cheesy? Maybe. But as a hopeless romantic and a devotee of the written word, I feel a connection to that lovelorn character, pulling the words close and sighing deeply.

Words are powerful. Love is powerful. And words and love together? That combination can alter reality.

However, the kind of love letter I want to talk about likely won’t be doodled with purple inked bubble hearts or held to someone’s chest as they pause to savor the sweetness.

The kind of love letter I’m talking about is one I hope that your sweetheart never actually reads but that you’ll write anyway.

A few months ago, I read Laura Story’s book When God Doesn’t Fix It: Lessons You Never Wanted to Learn, Truths You Can’t Live Without. She writes about her husband’s illness and how it changed their lives. Their story is a powerful one, but one part that struck me is a simple moment that had a major impact.

Her husband handled all of their finances, and before a scheduled surgery he was in the process of writing out the information for her “just in case.” They decided to go get ice cream instead. One thing led to another, and he never finished writing out the information.

Flash forward three months: they’ve dealt with a medical emergency that left him incapacitated and she is navigating the fall out, when suddenly utilities are being shut off and bills are overdue. A nightmare in the middle of a nightmare.

My husband’s job has given him experience talking with bereaved heirs and beneficiaries. A common heartbreak is that even when there is a good financial plan in place, loved ones planned ahead and looked out for each other, the bereaved doesn’t know how to implement it: they don’t know what the next step or phone call should be.

My husband and I divide tasks. We communicate, sure, but there are definitely areas he’s the lead in and areas I’m the one taking care of business. We realized neither one of us knew what to do to take over for each other. I’m sure we could eventually figure it out and stumble our way through, but who needs stumbles and hassles during an already difficult time?

So what can a couple do if they don’t want to be lost, trying to stand in each others shoes during a medical emergency or tragedy?

A different kind of love letter

My mom likes to tell the story of my Great Uncle Arnie and his letters to my aunt. Their love affair is the stuff of family legend and even as a kid I picked up on their devotion to each other.

A different kind of love letter

Arnie worked in insurance and I’m sure witnessed his share of bereaved spouses confused about their next step. So, he wrote my aunt a letter about what she needed to know in case something happened to him. He called it his love letter and updated it annually with any new information or changes.

It sounds kind of morbid at first glance, but the longer I live and the more complicated our lives become, the more romantic that love letter of Uncle Arnie’s is to me. So Christopher and I decided to write one.

Without being too specific, here are some of the things Christopher and I are including in our love letters to each other:

Financial

  • Passwords and usernames for all of the utilities, accounts, etc.
  • Account numbers
  • Insurance information (and make sure beneficiaries are in order)
  • Procedure – exactly what to do, who to call (step by step, with phone numbers) in the event of death or incapacitation

Miscellaneous

  • Passwords and usernames for social media, email, etc.
  • Information for traditions (like the Portable North Pole – things we’d want to continue but that might not be on the radar as important initially)
  • How to access cloud services (for example, our Shutterfly photo account)
  • Where documents are located (birth certificates, diplomas, certificates, etc.)
  • Warranty information
  • Durable Power of Attorney

It might seem odd to call this thinking with the end in mind a “love letter.” But really, it’s an act of caring to take time now to help ease a potentially painful transition for your loved one.

Keep it someplace safe—and then my wish is that this is a love letter you write, but never need to read.

p.s. One simple way to avoid identity theft.

p.p.s. There are 13 e-books and one e-course on organizing (and five e-books on marriage) in the current bundle sale.

Reading Time:

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14 Comments

  1. Seana G Turner

    I think this is very important. My husband has done much of this for me for what he handles, but I really should write one for him with all of my social media information, and information about the business and how to proceed. It’s the kind of thing you have good intentions about, but often procrastinate doing!

    • Kara

      Exactly! I can’t believe, especially give what my spouse does for a living, that we have put off doing something like this for so long.

  2. Karen

    YES! This may be the best love letter of all!!!!!!

  3. Rebecca Scheunemann

    Great advice. I am pretty sure my hubby would be completely clueless if something happened to me. This is one of those things you don’t think about; essentially I’ve always been like, “will? check, life insurance? check. I’m good to go” but it is true that there needs to be more communicated to navigate a tough time. My father passed away when I was 18 (with 7 younger siblings age 3-16) and my poor mother was thrown for a loop. The financial stuff was in place, but the actual experience of “taking care of things” was so grueling and confusing for her. Thanks for this!

  4. Linda Sand

    There’s an icon called Bucket on my spouse’s desktop.Most people would assume it is his bucket list. It’s not. It’s his When I Kick the Bucket list of things I will need to know and what to do about them. My desktop has a copy of my Health Care Directive and another one called Thoughts on Dying which explains why I made the choices I did. Those are things you do for loved ones.

  5. Beth

    Good post! As I was reading, I was thinking, I think we’ve done most of that…and then I realized it was because we live overseas and had to write it all out for my father-in-law who is our financial power of attorney. But it was a good reminder for a couple things we haven’t done and that we need to update the list. Our lives are also a little simpler right now because we don’t own much – no house, car, etc. – but there are still some things that would be good to update. Thanks! Another good conversation to have is with any siblings or close friends you have that have kids in the event something were to happen to you or them – who would care for the kids?

  6. Ashley

    Good advice – I hope people take it.

    My husband passed away 9 months ago and I feel lucky that I’ve always managed most of the “paperwork” things in our life. Taking that on for the first time right afterwards would have been difficult.

    • Linda Sand

      I’m so sorry for your loss.

  7. Elizabeth Byler Younts

    My husband did this more deliberately when preparing for deployment. It truly is an act of love.

  8. Brenda Crouser

    A great resource for this is “Get It Together: Organize Your Records So Your Family Won’t Have To”. We bought it as an e-book from NOLO; then you can download the pages to complete on your computer which makes updating a snap. It takes work to complete, but worth it.

  9. Dee

    Brilliant!

  10. Leanne

    This is terrific advice! We have just returned home from my mother-in-law’s funeral; some things were very straightforward to locate and arrange, while others are mysteriously hiding amongst the piles, files, and boxes of papers and things. We are now all motivated to thin out our own sentimental collections. In addition I realize I need to need to compile account information, also to make things easier for my loved ones.

  11. Jenna

    This is great advice. We are walking through a season of grief and I can’t tell you the difference it has made when someone has planned ahead. Picking up the pieces can be so difficult for the surviving spouse. Thankfully for my grandmother, my parents had been helping get all their bills online so she wasn’t completely lost when her husband of nearly 70 years passed away last year. This experience has changed the way everyone in the family thinks about planning ahead.

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