A few days ago Kate and I had what’s become a traditional pre-delivery conversation: If something goes wrong and I have to choose between your life and the baby’s, what would you want me to do? Perhaps it was fitting that as our conversation wound around somber topics we watched the skies outside turn from a beautiful sunny spring to the dense dull greys of a rainsquall.
Lord willing, no one will have to come to know what Kate and I settled upon. Some would disagree, others would agree, and (hopefully) all would grieve a sorrowful turn of events. But the decision we came to isn’t the point. The point is how important it is to have these kinds of conversations. We human beings tend to skirt the hard conversations until it’s too late to have them. I’m sure there are a multiplicity of reasons for this – we don’t want to talk about difficult topics, we don’t think anything will happen, we don’t want to fight if there are disagreements over what to do. It’s not bad karma to talk through such things as though merely having the conversation makes it more likely to happen.
Instead, it’s an act of love. The Golden Rule states it clearly: “Do to others what you want them to do to you.” I can’t think of a more agonizing situation to be in than to have to choose between my wife and my baby without having the sweet counsel of my godly and trusted spouse. I wouldn’t ever want her to have to wonder what I think she should do should I suddenly pass away in an accident. Such conversations certainly aren’t binding – we trust each other to be wise in the moment as God gives wisdom. But we also want to preemptively seek the counsel of the one we’d want counsel from before they’re beyond reach. This doesn’t apply just to situations of sudden, critical accidents but also to situations where memories fade, bodies wear out, and communication ceases.
What should be talked through? That’ll depend upon each couple or family. Different contexts and life situations will change the content. Here are a few categories Kate and I have taken care to talk through:
- What are your desires about heroic-means medical care?
- How should I care for our child(ren)?
- What would your advice be about where I should live?
- What should family involvement look like if one of us passes away?
- If the Lord leads me to desire remarriage, what can you tell me that would be helpful?
- Financially, what are we left with if you pass away? How would you advise me to use it? Who should I trust to help me make decisions?
- If something tragic and sudden happens, what should I do right away in the moment?
- What are key passwords, secret codes, etc. that I will need to know?
- Who is life insurance through and who can help me with it?
As Christians, it’s important for us to care for one another well. We know we inhabit a world beset by tragedy. We do well to take these two truths together and actively seek to have hard conversations that will make a world of difference should what we don’t want to happen actually come to pass.