Dear Mr Spreadsheet, I hope to live up to the legacy of love and learning you left me
How do you hold onto the heart of your family, when the heart of your family is gone?
Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” Lately, I’ve been grappling with these two certainties. I grew up poor, and managing money has always been a challenge for me.
My husband — “Mr Spreadsheet”, as I affectionately called him — was financially savvy, while I have the fiscal personality of a toddler on a sugar rush at a birthday party.
Throughout our 16-and-a-half-year marriage, we often disagreed on financial matters. He was gentle and kind, but he was firm about his financial preferences.
Once I had “calmed my farm”, I was able to see he was right, and apologise. When he was diagnosed with a rare, terminal lung disease, we had to downscale, and I had to get serious about money matters.
I couldn’t rely on him to bail me out anymore, especially after he retired due to his health condition. It was challenging, but we managed to persevere.
Now, six months after his passing, I find myself once again in unfamiliar financial territory. Just like that, I’ve become a widow and a single mom, and my son a trust fund baby.
Receiving my husband’s ashes was a grim day for me. It was just so final. I could no longer pretend he was on a long hospital stay and I would see him soon.
While the trustees of his insurance provider were communicating with me, I took my time to respond to their requests to complete forms and send documents.
The “blood money”, as I took to calling his life insurance money, was the last frontier for me.
If there was no finality on that and I didn’t have the money transferred, I could tell myself he was still in hospital and would be home soon.
I had dreams where he came back from the dead and I told him, “We have to cancel the death benefit claim as you are alive now.”
I could not deal with this final frontier of his death. The one where I receive an e-mail saying, “Dear Mrs Barrish, once again please accept our sincerest condolences for your loss, but hey, smile sweetheart, because here’s a lump sum to make you feel all better. Don’t spend it all in one place now!”
And now I really must keep it all together and retrain my chaotic financial brain. I have so much more responsibility.
I must stay true to my promise that our son will always be taken care of. I must ensure he continues to live the life he had when his dad was alive.
Most importantly, I must embrace my inner Mr Spreadsheet and remember the lessons he taught me.
But it hasn’t all been doom and gloom and sadness. The one silver lining is that I can finally bid farewell to the disease that took my husband away.
Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH) took so much from my beloved husband, our son, our marriage, and our dreams. In the end, it broke our family apart.
At the beginning of this year, we were looking forward to sending PAH to hell by prepping for a bilateral lung transplant. We were so excited by the prospect of no longer having to tolerate this unwelcome guest in our home.
But that was not the way our journey was meant to end. PAH did what it set out to do in 2012, when it first sunk its teeth into my husband’s lungs and destroyed his physical heart on 27 May 2023.
I cannot find the words to describe the relief I feel, knowing I don’t have to deal with PAH any longer.
Elton and I fought it hard. I spent the past 11 years fighting this disease with all my might and all the spare cash we had.
I fought medical boards and trustees. I fought hospitals and doctors and their rigid accounts departments. As much as I would have continued fighting for Elton’s life, it is such a relief to finally end my relationship with PAH.
Now that I have embraced the anger part of my grief, I feel ready for the next phase of my life. It will be as soft and gentle as my husband was.
I feel comforted that he made provision for me and our son to continue without him. I hear his voice in my head every time I must make a financial decision.
I know that Mr Spreadsheet will keep me on the right path, guiding me day by day. I hope to make you super proud, my Elton.