It is easy to find things to lie awake and worry about around here, and I certainly worry my share (though not nearly as much as I used to). But of all the worries that visit me on the occasional sleepless night and random low day, I have a “favorite”…
I am not insured. As in, I don’t have life insurance.
It seemed like such a silly thing to spend money on when Zoe was conceived. Such a crazy hedge against the improbable. I would look at ads in women’s magazines for life insurance and shake a proverbial fist at the fear-mongering I perceived. I would often do the same at the discomfiting breast cancer awareness ads. I am now thoroughly humbled, as you can imagine.
So, attempting not to wallow in the regret of my lack of insurance, I try to save money for some nest egg that will somehow protect Mark and Zoe from being highly physically inconvenienced in the event of my demise. How much would it cost, I wonder to myself, for a cleaning lady, an accountant, and a prepared meal every night? Also, a lawn service and a snow removal service. Oh, and someone to pick up the groceries and the dog poop. Tasks pop up as I find myself doing them and I think “put that on the list to be hired out” and the amount of the fictitious nest egg grows. Apparently, I’d like them to never lift a finger, believing somehow that this would be comfort enough in my absence.
But, of course, I’ll never save the right amount even if I were capable of it. And yet, the worry and the amount wriggle their way into my brain.
Or, I should say, they used to wriggle their way in. Until I read this book.
Passed to me by my uber-reading friend, Sara, it is a book of narratives of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust who lived into adulthood. Never sent to internment camps, they spent the duration of the war being hunted like animals, hiding, and being hidden. They are called “The Hidden Children” and for many years were not acknowledged by camp survivors as true Holocaust survivors.
I am all about reading survival stories and this was why Sara passed the book to me. But, as with other survival stories I have read, this one gave me a completely different life-changing message than what I expected. When these children reached adulthood they carried with them many things, but the thing that struck me was this; for the most part, they eschewed money.
They earned money, of course, they had jobs and careers and significant achievements, but the money was meaningless. One woman talked of hoarding food but not knowing remotely how much money was in her bank account. There was a time when her money couldn’t buy her food, so having food was more important than any money in an account.
I was telling this to my nurse during treatment one day. We talk books all the time. And I didn’t realize what I was saying until it came out of my mouth. It was something like this, “So, when I look at these survivors and how money means nothing to them, and I worry about not having life insurance, I guess I think that there’s no amount of money that would protect Mark and Zoe. Instead the wealth that we have is in relationships. In the people who love us and will continue to love them and be with them and help them. I guess the relationships are the wealth and the money is nothing. For these survivors of the Holocaust it wasn’t the money they had that protected them, it was the human relationships–other people who were willing to see them as hurting people and help them. The money was useless.”
And so this is what I tell my recurring worry. While I point out my current healthy capability, I remind myself that no amount of money can stanch any grief. Rather than think about the task that would go undone or hired out, I think about the people who love us. And that turns the worry into gratitude and joy for what Mark and I have called our “deep bench”–the web of people who have held us closely in the past and hold us gently now. And I sleep soundly thinking of who I might call/work beside/have coffee with in the morning.
Thank God for you. Truly.