How do you prepare for your own death? Should you prepare for your own death? This may sound really morbid and we often like to avoid this topic and actions related to it, but avoiding it does not really do us any service. I plan to live a long life just as much as the next person. I hope to be a really wonderful grandmother one day. However, after losing my husband, I immediately felt hyper-aware that I could die at any time and I had to do a few things to prepare accordingly. Most of us think of creating a will to that end and I absolutely suggest that to anyone who does not have one, but there is something else equally important.

I only know this because my husband did it for me and I will be eternally grateful for it. He was a Green Beret deploying to Afghanistan so he knew the risk of death to be possible, but unfortunately, people die suddenly and unexpectedly every day without putting themselves in harm’s way which is why we should all take steps to prepare for our loved ones.

We have two children who were babies when my husband died on August 3, 2014. On each deployment, before my husband left, he read to my children on an audio recorder, read them a recordable storybook and he recorded a video message to each of us. The messages he left us are priceless. They are the ultimate gift to the grieving and provide eternal reference of his love for us and his core values and beliefs. On the videos, he talked about what was most important to him.

If you have lost someone you love dearly, you know that feeling of desperately wanting to speak to them just one more time. You want one more conversation. You want one more chance to hear their voice, tell them you love them, or hear them say the same. Through his video messages to us, my husband gifted himself and us with the ability to speak to us one more time, to say what he wanted to say as if it were his last chance.

He talked to my kids in their messages about how much he loved them and how much joy they brought to his life. He explained how important it is that they follow through with their commitments, do not give up, pursue their dreams, and go to college. He also told each of them to remember that love and family is the only thing that will bring them true happiness in life. Then he comically backpedaled in his message to my daughter about making sure that she is careful not to let any man take priority in her life if he is not deserving of such a special girl. He said not to let a boy distract her from her dreams. She was 11 months old when he made that message and then left for Afghanistan where he would lose his life. He was already thinking about protecting her from the charms of boys.

In his message to me, my husband reminded me of what I already knew: that he loved me more than anything in the world, that he was grateful for me and proud of me and believed in me. He said we would get through this (deployment). This too shall pass. He would be home soon. He believed his words. He was wrong. I never, ever thought he would come home in a coffin. No one does. I hope no one ever experiences sudden loss of a loved one. Unfortunately, death is a part of life.

In my case, I am zealously grateful that I have messages from him in his voice sharing his love for us. He does not look very happy in the video, his personality muted by the reality of the reason for his recording, but that is to be expected. If you prepare, it will be hard and the reality of the reason will weigh on your heart. That is okay. Do not avoid it because of the emotional difficulty. Welcome the opportunity to prepare before it is too late. There is no greater gift you can leave your loved ones.

Wishing you longevity and preparedness,

Nikola Rosa