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20October2019

Intimacy4us

The conversation every couple must have . . .

You want to dream about kids, vacations and your home with your husband and the last thing you want to fret about is the possibility of death. But experts say it is one of the most important topics you need to tackle.

Do you know how your spouse feels about death? Is he/she a believer? Do you know if he/she wants you to switch off the machines if he/she is declared brain dead? Does he/she want a big, lavish funeral or does he/she want you to spread his/her ashes in the bushveld.

An everyday topic . . .

“I look so badass is this picture,” said Aaron Vaughn to his wife, Kimberley, one day as he was paging through the photos of his deployment to Iraq. “Use it in my funeral leaflet.” Aaron and Kimberley were newlyweds of just over a year, but by this time she was use to the comfortable way he talked about his own death writes Kira Zalan in her article ‘The Talk that makes Every Relationship Stronger’ on www.redbookmag.com.

What Kimberley was not use to, was the ritual of the navy’s paperwork where the family has to write down there wishes should their loved one die. “It unnerved me to write down the names of his best man and procession where I had to detail his coffin bearers.”

‘You may never marry again’

After his first deployment in 2009 Kimberley gave birth to their first child and she could see that the importance of what he had to leave behind was very difficult for him. “You may never get married again” he said. Usually he would just casually mention his death wishes.

He would joke: “I want you to mourn for a couple of months before you party again.” She would jokingly reply: “What if you die as a young stud and by the time I meet you in heaven, I am an old woman with a cane? Will you still want me?” But within all these frivolities they knew they had to make the best of their present. He even encouraged her parents to buy a plot right next to their house. “If I am gone you will appreciate having them nearby,” he said.

The last goodbye

It wasn’t easy and every conversation about death felt like an extra layer that got peeled away and left them raw and bruised. Shortly before his last deployment to Afghanistan in June 2011 he suddenly changed his mind about his argument regarding her remarrying. “I would want you to get married again,” he told her. “We are so young. I hate to think of all the years that you would be alone.” With the last goodbye before his four month tour (she was pregnant with their second child) he took off his wedding ring and put it on her thumb saying: “Things like these have a way to go missing when something happens.” And something did happen.

Two months later Kimberley received the bad news. “I wanted to hide from the reality of his death, but so many choices needed to be made. Did he want to be cremated? Should his coffin be of steel or wood? Where did he want to be buried? I needed to know what song he would have wanted to be played and which picture to print on the program.” It overwhelmed her – until she realized Aaron had been planning it over the years. They already had all those conversations.

Kimberley’s advice

Her friends never understood their conversation about death. It was fascinating to them but they decided to believe that their husbands are indestructible. Today she says: “What most couples don’t understand is that they are missing out on an entirely new level of intimacy. Do not be afraid to talk about death with your spouse, it will make your relationship more alive . . . Even though Aaron and I where only together for a short period of time, those conversations definitely brought us closer together and it is that passionate intimacy that touched every aspect of our marriage and that I will always cherish.

Additional sources: www.redbookmag.com; www.huffingtonpost.com; www.caregiverslibrary.org; www.forbes.com; www.theguardian.com