This is a frank talk about money, not to be mistaken as a plea for money. I hope a little bluntness here might make someone else’s journey through the widowhood a little less scary and infuriating. If nothing else, fellow and sister widow people, be assured that you are not alone. I wish you all a safe and comfy place to talk about your big fears with people who know the ‘hood.
Mark and I were kept so busy fighting the Hydra that was his illness, we didn’t prepare for the possibility of losing the war. So, it wasn’t until making arrangements for Mark’s funeral that I learned about the Social Security death benefit for dependents. What a relief! The boys were eligible to receive monthly checks that almost made up for the loss of Mark’s salary. This was welcome and important news. Mark had been the bread-winner in our family; my salary makes up less than a third of our household income.
Social Security was a godsend. It made life in the widowhood infinitely easier.
It ran out this month.
I am scared. And then I’m okay. Then, I’m scared again. I have two boys headed for college very soon.
Here’s how life without that money breaks down, for now:
I am paid twice a month. The first paycheck will cover the mortgage payment and maybe two tanks of gas. The second check will cover the monthly bills, much of the grocery bill, and most of the rest of the tanks of gas, if prices stay at the current low, and if the summer heat/electricity bill isn’t too brutal. Anything more or unexpected in a given month – fees, insurance, car/home repairs, doctor visits, medications, etc. – will come out of reserves. This budget has very little room for dining out or movies. No extras.
So, it was a little painful last week when I mailed a check for $,$$$ to settle Mark’s medical debt to Suchandsuch Medical Systems. After three years of letters and negotiations, the debt amount was reduced to a painful-but-manageable sum that I could pay off without going into bankruptcy.
We are free. Mark is free. I don’t have to dread seeing that particular letterhead in the mailbox anymore. It guts me sometimes knowing that Mark died in fear that he was leaving us destitute because of medical bills. Now we are released from that fear. I hope that he is, too.
I am trying to keep this close to mind, instead of stewing about how roughly a quarter of my yearly income went into an envelope and went way, way away.
Money is hard, y’all. Finance is a whole other language, one that I barely speak. One can’t “one day at a time” money because responsible financial behavior means looking ahead, thinking ahead. But, over-thinking leads me into dark, dark places, so I have to climb into that 24-hour box, and remind myself, “Right now, I am okay. For today, we are okay.”
(Unless one of us gets sick, or needs major medical care. Once you’ve been through it, you can’t dismiss the possibility.)
The mantra: Today, no one is coming to take the house. Today, I can pay all the bills, and buy coffee. Today, we have food, electricity, clean water, and a safe place to land. We’re immensely blessed that a SuperAngel Friend has offered big-time help towards college. It is humbling and uncomfortable to qualify for government assistance for the boys’ schooling, but we’re so grateful that it’s there. Today, in comparison with 97% of the rest of the population of this planet, my kids and I are very, very, very well off.
Today, I looked at my bank statement and realized that the tax refund check was direct-deposited into the same account that the monster medical bills check was drawn from, and the refund amount comes comfortably close to covering what was paid out.
Letting that settle for a moment. True, we won’t have the tax refund money, and we don’t have the money that went out. But, we get a little bit of assurance, maybe, that things might work out.
For today, I have no clues as to what’s really ahead, or how we’re going to make it, but I can choose, today, to a little faith that we will.