Dealing with the unexpected

I like to have a backup plan. I overload myself with food, books and knitting to ensure my entertainment. My van usually has seasonal outdoor gear if I have time to hike. I have a blanket for picnics and a beach towel for a quick dip in the lake. I organize meals and shop ahead. It may seem like I’m a little OCD, but I am just organized. I am also fine when plans go awry. I want to teach my children to plan when they can and be flexible. My husband and I have piled on the lessons and educational outcomes, hoping our children can skip the negative experiences.

My son and I were on the phone arguing, as mothers and sons do. It wasn’t anything serious, but he ended the call abruptly. A few minutes later, my phone began to explode with texts and phone calls. I looked at the last text, which said, “I love you.” I called him back, knowing my son hates to end a conversation in anger. It doesn’t mean we don’t argue. It took us a few years to actively practice, but we learned to “never go to bed angry.” Instead, he was telling me his roommate’s father had unexpectedly died.

We had just met this man at my son’s graduation. His son and mine were first-year roommates and part of a core group from the beginning. We’ve heard the stories and felt we knew the parents as well as we knew their children. We spent the weekend sharing stories about how we’ve shared our children over the past four years, but this was the first time all the parents had gathered together.

No number of educational experiences, talks, or backup plans can prepare a parent for a call about a funeral. I organized my father’s funeral, but I wasn’t sure how to direct my son to best help his friend. I talked to my son about florists, caskets, cremation, and a wake. The housemates took countless road trips and casseroles. They supported their friend while feeling guilty that they still had their fathers at home.

Life can change quickly, so please make sure your last words are kind. Have no regrets and stay safe.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today