If I Could Do It Again

A Triangle father recalls poignant conversations with his late wife
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Image courtesy of Merkushev Vasiliy/Shutterstock.com

My wife and I talked about the future, but only the good stuff: Where we wanted to retire, what life would be like without packing lunches and being in carpools, the idea of maybe purchasing a lake house someday. Never could we imagine that one of us would die unexpectedly at age 39.

When my wife was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer, our three daughters were 6, 9 and 12. She worked full-time and was the CEO of our house. The economics of our family called for my career to come first. I was also in charge of family fun. When I got home I tickled, wrestled, snuggled and read while Lisa did everything else.

It’s hard to talk about the “what ifs.” It’s harder when the possibility of death is staring you in the face. The five-and-a-half months Lisa fought for her life left little time to plan. She was weak and exhausted from treatments. I was overwhelmed — the hole in my heart widening as I secretly envisioned the inevitable.

Thankfully, we had life insurance. I’ve heard that many couples don’t. We had four times more on me and for $400/year we could have had the same amount on her. Shortsighted on our part.

The day before she died, she shared her passwords with me. I’d now be able to access our family photos on Shutterfly and check the kids’ grades on the school’s website. That same day she told me to remarry, “You’re not good alone.” At the time I couldn’t imagine ever loving again. 

Today, I’m engaged. What a gift that short conversation became!

I read her a letter I’d written to her in anticipation of the end. I put some thought into it, but I should have said so much more.

I wish we’d had more time. I wish we’d talked about the long-term vision for our girls, our extended families, finances, memorial services and the potential gaps that would be left if one of us were gone. 

If I could do it again, I would have talked when she was well, and I wasn’t in such a fragile mental state. I’d have been more thoughtful about learning her role in our house. I would have purchased more life insurance to ensure long-term financial stability for my daughters. Oh, and I would have done a better job of letting her know how important she was to me. 

I won’t make those mistakes the next time around. 


Bruce Ham, who lives in Raleigh, started writing after losing his wife and raising his three daughters on his own eight years ago. He has written a book, “Laughter, Tears and Braids,” about their journey, and writes a blog about his family’s experience at therealfullhouse.wordpress.com.


Categories: Family, Lifestyle, Parenting